ISKCON Derire Tree's Posts (13053)

HG Mekhala devi dasi ACBSP has passed away


In Memoriam.
HG Kurma Das: My Godsister from Australia Mekhala devi dasi has passed away.

In the picture, left to right: Mekhala dasi, Satyavati dasi (white sari) Padmavati dasi (wife of Vegavan dasa), Sukla dasi Shari Zielinski (between Padmavati and Sanaka), Sanaka dasa, Stavros Steve Vergis Dhaumya dasa, Krishna Premi dasi, Cittahari dasa (with hair, behind Krishna Premi), Kurma dasa

This photo was taken in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday 6 April 1972, Hare Krishna Temple @ 14 Burnett Street, St. Kilda. on the occasion of the installation of Radha and Krishna.

“Twenty-year-old Mignonne Steele, a student of classical ballet, was walking down Bourke Street one spring day, when smiling Upendra offered her a Back to Godhead magazine, the cover adorned with a picture of Krsna dancing with the gopis. She was feeling the weight of the heavy pressure her competitive career demanded of her. The intensity had become almost unbearable and, although not a religious person, she had prayed to God for the first time only two weeks before “God, I’m suffering. If you exist, please help me.”

Mignonne recalls: “I took the magazine home and read it. An address was stamped inside the cover:

Sri Sri Radha Krsna Temple.

Station Street,


Every night after ballet, I would walk to Station Street for the arati ceremony at the temple. It was a wonderful experience. After two weeks, I just gave up my ballet. I literally walked out, and moved into the temple.”

from Kurma Dasa’s ‘Great Transcendental Adventure”

Mignonne became Mekhala devi dasi in the ceremony pictured in the photo.


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If You Only Live Once by Kesava Krsna Dasa


Many people in the world think they live only once. With only one life, how does this affect lives and society? How is a one-life concept going to affects ambitions, goals and outlook? There is one-life spirituality and multi-birth spirituality – which of these enable a full understanding of the soul, and why good or bad things happen? Is God to blame, or us? If there is no God, why do people lament the loss of loved ones if they are simply bags of chemicals?

With only one life, there must be a rush to cram the maximum in enjoyment. Life is meant for enjoyment, but what kind? Is the ideal of life enjoyment in spiritual happiness or just to be a decent human being without the need for religion? With one life ahead, can any spiritual path or non-belief in God satisfy the self? Let us examine some outcomes of one-life limitations. The following implications are:

  • There is only one life in which to attain salvation

  • If one misses out on ‘being saved’, one is doomed forever

  • An incomplete understanding of the eternality of the soul

  • The soul must be born or have a beginning at material birth

  • Burial of the dead to await salvation or damnation

  • If people miss religion because of geographical remoteness, they are cast forever in hell – tough luck

  • God must be cruel and vain for giving only one single life in which to turn to him, or else

  • Incomplete philosophy and thought

  • Many souls hang around after death without promised salvation

  • God is not fully in control of His creation

  • Only the human species has a soul, and even then, if they are believers

  • Psychiatrists, psychologists and psycho-analysts cannot explain all human tendencies, phobias, social traits, memories and other behavioural observations fully

  • Normal people do not lament the loss of chemicals, yet people lament the loss of loved ones (dead bodies)

  • Selfishness and greed is disguised under the heading of success at exploitation

  • Lamenting over bags of chemicals is contradictory behaviour for those who do not belive in the soul

  • God’s love and patience must be limited

  • God must be influenced by material time

  • Material success must be the favour of God

  • Suffering and poverty must be the punishment of God

  • To blame God for whatever good or bad happens in the world

  • Unable to explain why a soul is born into a privileged situation and another soul is born into difficult circumstances – it’s all God’s grace

  • Everybody who lived before the appearance of saviours are all doomed

  • Intolerance of other faith systems

  • To do good to others out of fear and obligation, not genuine love

Without wholesome spirituality, a society built on sense enjoyment and exploitation flourishes. Exploitation and selfish sense enjoyment can and does occur with a belief in God as well. With an incomplete understanding of God and the soul, to that degree, society can malfunction, and people suffer a lack of genuine spirituality. If there is a fuller concept of God and the soul, it means:


  • There are multiple lives and opportunities in which to turn to God

  • If one misses out on ‘being saved’, there is always another chance

  • Eternality of the soul indicates no material birth or death for the soul

  • The soul has no beginning or end

  • Cremation helps to relinquish bodily attachments after death

  • If people miss out, God’s love remains and He is willing to accompany the soul in the heart as a friend

  • A loving God, like a loving father, will always wait for His children (souls) to make the choice of turning to Him

  • If human life culminates in love and devotion (Bhakti), it is a complete science

  • The quest to please God by love and devotion is never lost, and continues birth after birth until perfection

  • God is fully in control of the creation and awards all souls accordingly

  • People are responsible for whatever good or bad happens in this world – we are to blame, not God

  • Wherever there is life, there is a soul, in all species of life, symptomized by consciousness

  • Hunan tendencies and traits can better be explained when we consider previous impressions from previous lives

  • When people lament the loss of loved ones, they are lamenting the loss of the soul, not the dead body

Living in a society based on a one-life philosophy is to be surrounded by uncertainty, fear and incompleteness. Anything produced out of such a society will reflect the same. It shows how fortunate people must become to receive genuine knowledge of the soul and God, and how compassionate they are who try to give this knowledge to others.

Proof Of The Soul

Within a one-life concept in which “You only live once” is as certain as indoctrinated thought, there are loopholes to be exploited. Just as Srila Prabhupada often said that consciousness was the symptom of life – here too, proof of the existence of the soul is revealed, no matter whether one is a believer or not.

In BG 2.26 (God) Krishna includes an atheistic or religious one-life concept when describing the nature of the eternal soul. Krishna says that if we believe the soul is born at material birth and dies forever at death, there is no reason why people should lament the loss of the body previously animated by loved ones (living force, the soul).

Within this world geared towards maximising enjoyment at every moment – if possible – because there is only ‘one life’ in which to do so, there is somehow great attachment to loved ones who only come into being once, and then vanish forever. (God) Krishna says that one-life deaths are not worth lamenting for, yet non-believers and convinced atheists still cry at bereavement of loved ones. Why?

They cry for that which animated the bodies of lost ones. What this animation is, non-believers do not know. Whatever it is or was, certainly gave them affection , pleasure and love – something which chemicals are incapable of doing. The fact that people lament the loss of whatever animated dead bodies is proof of the existence of the soul, however indescribable and misunderstood. People lament for something, not for nothing (a dead body composed of chemicals).

This loophole of lamenting over something enabling bodily animation is a vulnerable chink in the armoury of avowed non-believing people. When they lament, they are exposing their belief in something other than the material body. At bereavement, non-believers exhose a type of faith in an unknown – the soul. They will not admit it though. They believe in the soul by crying for its loss.

This loophole should be exploited more to help change such lamentation into proper understanding of the mysterious life force which has no beginning or end. Once non-believers have been exposed for crying over something not worth lamenting about, and they still refuse to admit that they cry for something other than the body, they need to be asked, “What are you crying about?” Surely, no one cries over nothing, unless one has been taught to. The teachings and promotion of a one-life concept literally causes people to believe and behave irrationally, especially in loss of loved ones.

Some people say that God must be heartless and cruel if he allows souls to be reborn into new bodies over and over again with no possibility of escape. If God only grants one single life in which to turn to Him or suffer eternal damnation if you don’t, this puts a limitation on God’s love for all. In the rebirth concwpt, God reveals His patience and eternal love in waiting for lost souls to return to Him, however long it takes.

What we souls experience as a long time because we are bound by time, does not affect God (Krishna) because He is beyond time. Krishna consciousness means one can end the cycle of rebirth in this life. God’s love is infinite, not being bound to limited one-life ultimatums. Multiple births is a long time for us, not for God, If we are willing, God (Krishna) will help us end the rebirth cycle and return to Him, back home, back to Godhead.

Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa.


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The final wrap-up to our weekend discussions came in the form of a walk through the valley with those who had not left for their respective homes. A couple from Athabasca, a mother and son from the village in Saranagati, devotees from major cities, and Ramnath from the end of the valley were with me. Off we strolled.
“Ramnath, can you tell us the types of trees we are seeing on both sides of the trail? Some of us know models of cars, but we don’t know our trees.”
Ramnath was happy to respond. “Well, here, it is mostly fir. The tall trees which are practically dead are the ones devastated by the pine beetle. Over there are a few juniper bushes.”

“Don’t you have some poplar trees?” I asked.

“Yes, where there’s more water, down lower in the valley.”

“Where do you see rattlesnakes?

“We are walking in the area where they slither in the summer. This is the sunniest, most dry area in the valley.”

Hearing about snakes always raises eyebrows, and ‘rattlesnakes’ all the more.

Ramnath further explained that Chinese railway workers once lived there. He then pointed to an underground hole where some residents stay in the summer when it’s hot. There is a clear opening with a log-framed entrance.

My walking companions were also intrigued to hear about an abandoned gold mine in the valley. “If you go in, you might not come out,” I warned. Eyebrows, again.
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Hare Krishna,
I have compiled an Index of Sri Krsna's Holy Names from the Bhagavad-gita. Currently, the index lists, explains and cites sastric locations for 239 names occurring in the texts and translations of Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
There are different categories, the main one being Names of Sri Krsna with fifty-seven entries from BG as of Nov 2019. Also names of His devotees, paraphernalia, etc. I have also started compiling lists from the Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana), Sri Caitanya-caritamrta & Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu which will be release in a different edition.

Please click on the below link:  
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A long, long time ago when I was not an ISKCON devotee I developed a growing interest in spiritual life. After many years of taking drugs and attending rock concerts I had become sick of life.

I had been manager in several companies I worked for, most of the time I had more money than I needed and I had freedom and independence. Somehow I was not satisfied. I started wondering if real happiness existed. I discovered that no matter how hard I tried I just could not break free from certain activities.

I was looking for real freedom; freedom from the unseen forces that drove me to seek out all those things people said would make me happy but in truth bound me with chains. I was confused, where do I turn now? Then one day I had the courage to admit to myself that, with all these desirable things, I was not happy. This was the first scary thing, to admit I was not happy.

Then, my life began to change. Again, I became scared because I didn’t really know where I was going. All I knew was I didn’t want to be where I was. I was haunted by a thousand fears, what should I do now, will I have money? Will I have friends? Will I be cared for? And on and on. So I started to read. First it was science, then psychology, and then self help. It didn’t fit. I was scared again, where do I go? So I tried eastern philosophy. Now, heres something. I read more and learned a lot. I learned drugs were bad, so I stopped. As a result I lost 85% of my friends, and then I got really scared; but excited.

If they were really my friends then they would support me to improve my life. So I took another step. I learned that happiness was not found in women, TV, eating dead animals or in reading numerous books. I gave it up, even though I was scared. Then I learned happiness was not found in rock and roll. This is going too far I thought, so I held on. But in the mean time my life had changed direction a dozen times and I had to admit that I was finding a wonderful sense of freedom from all the things that I thought gave me happiness. I was not doing many of these things and I was still alive. And in many ways becoming happy. But still I knew I had to go further. There was something deep inside that wasn’t being fulfilled.

I began to practice Hatha Yoga. Amazing things happened. I became strong both mentally and physically. I was more alert, I felt alive. But, deep inside a voice cried out for more. Then I met the devotees. Now I was scared. I had seen them before but did not take them serious. Now I was attracted but I turned away. Again I saw them and again I was scared, but of what. It was independence. What was so great about independence?

I made all my own decisions, I was my own man, but I was also unhappy. I wanted to break away completely from the material world. I wanted God in my life. I want to try it, I thought. But what if I failed? What will I have to give up? I was really scared now. I will have to give up rock and roll and I will have to follow rules and regulations. But deep down inside, my hearts said try it. Scared I was but I took a few steps. And wow, it worked, kind of. I didn’t become a saint and I didn’t see the white light but I did begin to feel an inner peace. I took another step and fell down. And it hurt.

I took another step and fell down. What now? I tried again and started to walk. I began to realize that Krsna was everywhere, even in my own life. I began to understand that Krsna was a person and that I had a relationship with Him, a loving relationship that was eternal. I was actually becoming happy. Sometimes even tears of joy came to my eyes. I even gave up rock and roll, and I survived. Today, I’m still scared but I keep taking those next steps. I still fall down and I still get back up. I’m succeeding in spiritual life. But I did not do it alone. I always found the greatest source of strength from my devotee friends. Of course, I had to reach out to them; they could not read my mind. I had to ask for help.

This too I had to learn. I had to ask the right questions and when I got the answers I acted on that knowledge. Over the years I matured, my vision to continue comes from reading Srila Prabhupada’s books, my encouragement comes from seeing devotees around me work hard and succeed and my goal remains clear by humbly serving Radha Gopinatha the best way I can. Being scared is natural for all living entities when they are put into uncertain circumstances.

But when we come to realize that Krsna is our best friend and that His love for us is eternal then there is nothing in this world that is fearful. He loves us, not like our love for each other but real love, a kind of love that has no comparison in our life. And when this love touches us we will not be scared to take the next step. I am scared of death but Krsna will defeat that for me simply by the sound of His name. And when I wake up in the spiritual world there will be no more pain, nor suffering, nor fear, just eternality, knowledge and bliss, like the scriptures have told me all along.

I thought that life in the material world was bad, actually its life in material consciousness that is bad. All of us go through these changes to some degree or another. We have learned that Krsna consciousness is a collective process as well as an individual process. We can see that Krsna consciousness is not otherworldly or abstract but is very down to earth, natural and real. Our lives in the material world will go on, raising children, working a job, caring for friends. But when we add Krsna to our lives then life finally has a real purpose. Life becomes meaningful and we can become happy.

We just have to be willing to take the next step.


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 “‘Hare’ can refer to both Hari, or Krishna, the Supreme Lord, and Radha, known as Mother Hara. When perceived in the latter sense, common in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, it is an address to God’s energy, specifically His spiritual pleasure potency (hladini-shakti), who is also known as His female manifestation: Radhika. The word hari also means “thief.” In relation to Radha and Krishna, it refers to Their stealing of each other’s hearts, and the hearts of all living beings.”

[Note: The quoted selections below are from Jiva Goswami’s Maha-mantrartha Dipika]

“‘Krishna steals everyone’s mind. Yet, due to Sri Radha’s expert nature, She steals even His. She is thus known as Hara.’”

“‘He inexorably attracts Sri Radha with the sweet sound of His flute music. For this reason the enchanting Lord is known as Krishna.’”

“‘With a fully loving heart, Sri Radha sometimes quietly sings the glories of Hari, and sometimes She sings them aloud. Those who are expert in the secrets of divine sentiments call Her Hara.’ By such divine repetition, i.e., japa and kirtana, Sri Radha sets an example of how to steal Krishna’s heart.”

“‘Radha, who is most merciful, obliterates the miseries of Her devotees, affording them daily happiness. Therefore She is known as Hara.’ Radhika steals away the miseries of the devotees.”

“‘When the son of Nanda (Krishna) returned to Vraja, He thereby took away all the suffering of all the devotees who live there. By exhibiting such compassion, He stole the heart of Sri Radha. Thus He is known as Hari.’ In this last word of the maha-mantra, then, Sri Jiva sees Krishna rather than Radha, for He steals Her heart with His all-encompassing love. In other words, most commentators think that the “Hare” at the end of the mantra is yet another reference to Radha, but no, Jiva indicates that it is instead a veiled reference to Krishna.”

“Chanting Krishna’s name gives direct experience of God’s attributes (Bhakti-sandarbha 264) and awakens intense passion (anuraga) for Him, causing one to dance, cry, scream, and laugh like a madman (Bhakti-sandarbha 263). Jiva further tells us that singing the names out loud (anugiyate), especially, is much more effective than quiet recitation – japa, which, as mentioned above, is also an essential practice. Jiva tells us that people who engage in loud chanting (kirtana) are humanity’s greatest benefactors (Bhakti-sandarbha 269). This latter point speaks to the profound phenomenon of kirtana, especially when enacted congregationally (sankirtana), for if even nonbelievers merely hear the transcendental sound, they become purified and their spiritual life moves forward. This is why devotees go out into the streets (nagara-sankirtana) – it is for the benefit of all souls. ‘Indeed, among all spiritual practices,’ writes Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati (“Sri Namasankirtana” in The Gaudiya, Vol. 23, No. 10), ‘sankirtana is the best and foremost means of attaining the grace of the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna. Other types of sadhana, or devotional practices, are worthy of being called such only if they favorably assist the performance of sankirtana; otherwise they should be known as obstructions to actual sadhana. Whether one is a child or an old or young man, male or female, learned or illiterate, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, pious or sinful – regardless of the condition of life someone may be in – there is no spiritual practice for him other than Sri Krishna nama-sankirtana.’”


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By Madhava Smullen

The second annual Diwali celebration at the Bhakti Center in New York City not only drew around 350 festivalgoers including 200 new guests, but was also covered by the CBS News New York television station.

Since the Bhakti Center is the only temple with Radha Krishna Deities in Manhattan, it was an obvious choice for Diwali. A CBS News camera crew filmed first on Thursday October 24th, before the event, and then again on Diwali day itself, Monday October 27th.

The first two-minute segment aired on Friday the 25th on the 5 o’clock news, and covered the celebration of Diwali in general, discussing its meaning and how it is observed by 1 billion people around the world including Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and even some Buddhists and Muslims.


Reporter Kiran Dhillon spoke while standing in front of Srila Prabhupada’s murti, as well as pictures of Lord Krishna and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and interviewed the Bhakti Center’s Director of Community Development Karuna Gauranga Das.

The second segment, also running about two minutes long, aired on Monday October 28th at 5pm, and showed arati of Sri Sri Radha Muralidhara, kirtan, devotees serving prasadam, and a devotional dance performance. Also included were interviews with Karuna Gauranga and second generation devotee Rukmini Priya Poddar.

“We really hope that every person who walks through this door just feels completely a sense of not only spiritual nourishment, but also a sense of home,” Rukmini said.


According to Karuna Gauranga, the CBS crew were very favorable. “They were  warm and friendly, eager to learn, and not taken aback by the rituals they saw,” he says. “They liked the liveliness of the festivities, and were really inquisitive on a personal level too. They asked about the chanting, both reporters said they wanted to visit again, and the cameramen were delighted to take prasad.”

When the segments aired, the Bhakti Center saw viewers at its EventBrite page jump from 600 (last year) to 3,700, and registration sold out.

Those who attended had a magical experience. Strung with lights to create an atmospheric mood, the temple hall was divided into two from 6pm to 8:00pm. At the back were food stalls serving Indian street food such as bhel puri, pani puri, phav bhaji, and dabeli, along with cake, mousse, mango lassi and lemonade. Visitors could also get mehndi body art for $5.


At the front, a constant flow of people offered flowers and donations to the beautiful deities of Sri Sri Radha-Muralidhara on Their altar, and participated in Gaura Arati and kirtan.

At eight o’clock, the stalls closed, and the temple hall opened up into one seating area as Ambika Sharma performed a traditional kuchipudi dance based on the Ramayan. Accompanying the performance, Jahnavi Jivana Dasi (Jahnavi Harrison) sang a song she had composed herself combining Holy Names with English lyrics describing Lord Rama’s qualities.

The celebrations concluded with a heartfelt Damodarastakam led by Jahnavi, during which everyone came forward to offer lamps to the Lord, their sparkling lights hovering in the darkness.


As each guest left, they were given gifts including prasadam dry fruit and nuts, and a beautiful Radha Krishna fridge magnet.

CBS News were not the only ones impressed with the festivities – both devotees and guests were delighted, and they encouraged Bhakti Center organizers to continue holding Diwali annually.

One of these guests was the owner of major company Milton Industries in India. When the Bhakti Center was recommended to him by his good friend Goura Gopal Das, he and his family attended, unbeknownst to anyone. Later, Goura Gopal told the other devotees about the family’s response.


“His daughters are from India, but settled here in New York,” Karuna Gauranga says. “Usually younger generation Indians who come to America would never walk into a temple, particularly on a festival day, because they know it will just be old people. But these two young women told Goura Gopal that they were so impressed by the diversity and youth of the crowd at our Diwali.”

The businessman himself, meanwhile, was deeply touched to receive the gift of prasadam and the Radha Krishna magnet as he left.

“It was a very moving gesture for him, that we were eager to give him something, rather than asking him for something,” Karuna Gauranga says. “It really touched his heart.”

The interaction was emblematic of what the Bhakti Center hoped to send all guests away with. “We carry a lot of darkness in ourselves, and in society today,” Rukmini told CBSN reporters. “So we want to bring joy, and love, and light into it.”


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The Heart of a Vaishnava


Back to Godhead March/April 2012

By Vishakha Devi Dasi

An appreciation of the extraordinarily devoted life of Srila Prabhupada’s beloved disciple Yamuna Devi Dasi (1942–2011).

Sitting on the front porch of her Oregon home, Joan Campanella was delighting in the Pacific thunderstorm drenching the coastline when, with surprise, she noted the mailman on his rounds despite the foul weather. Bent against the wind, rain dripping from his long hair, the mailman walked up her porch steps, reached into his waterproof mailbag, and handed her a blue aerogram from her sister, Jan, who had recently gone to New York City with her boyfriend, Michael. Jan wrote that she and Michael had met a Swami in New York and the Swami was going to marry them. She asked Joan to come for the wedding. Soon Joan was off to New York.

New York City, 1966

Joan: Little did I know what kind of wedding it would be. All I knew was that they had received the names Mukunda and Janaki from a swami. When I saw the Swami he was sitting beside the window in his front room, bathed in sunlight, distributing prasada to the devotees who were sitting around him. Mukunda introduced me, and Swamiji offered me someprasada. Because I was a devotee of macrobiotics, thisprasada was very unpalatable to me, yet this radiant and beautiful person was eager for me to take it. I took it, but in my mind I decided this would be the last time I would have lunch with the devotees. Then Swamiji put his hand into a big pot with crystallized sugar syrup sticking to the outside and pulled up a huge, round, dripping gulabjamun. I said, “Oh, no. I am so full I couldn’t take any.” He said, “Take, take.” He made me take it. When I finished the gulabjamun I was fully convinced that this would be the last time I would ever come there.

San Francisco, 1967


After her ten-day trip to New York, Joan returned to Oregon along with Mukunda and Janaki. Swamiji had asked the newly married couple to try to start a Krishna conscious temple on the West Coast, and en route they picked up two old friends, Sam Speerstra (later initiated as Syamasundara Dasa) and his girlfriend, Melanie Nagel (Malati Devi Dasi), as well as Joan's boyfriend, Roger Siegel. In Oregon’s quiet forests these three couples began chanting Hare Krishna together and Joan spent hours studying the first three volumes of the Srimad-Bhagavatam that Swamiji had written and brought with him from India. Before long the small group started a temple in San Francisco and soon Swamiji joined them. Attending his lectures, kirtanas, and informal gatherings, tasting the depth of his wisdom, the purity of his love, and the beauty of the Krishna conscious philosophy he presented and lived, Joan was captivated. She decided to become Swamiji's disciple.

On initiation, Joan received the name Yamuna Devi Dasi, and Roger, initiated at the same time, became Gurudasa. The next day Swamiji married them and explained how husband and wife should keep Krishna in the center of their lives, serve Him, and assist one another.

Yamuna: When Swamiji went on his daily morning walks anyone could go with him. So I was walking with him one morning and I said, “Swamiji, do you think sometime you could allow us to go to Vrindavan with you?” He turned around and said, “Yes, I will take you to Vrindavan one day, I will show you Vrindavan on foot.” I thought that was the most hopeful thing I had ever heard in my life. I was just waiting for that time to come.

By the time Swamiji left San Francisco in April, he had introduced Yamuna to traditional Vaishnava cooking, prasada distribution, singing devotional songs, and deity worship. Yamuna, an exceptionally sincere student, took up these devotional activities with care, attention, and love.

In May, Yamuna and Gurudasa received their first letter from Swamiji, sent from New York: “I have very good appreciation for both of you, Gurudasa and Yamuna. You are two good souls, now you have combined. Live peacefully, chant Hare Krishna, and be happy in your life.” (May 5, 1967)

The next month, Swamiji suffered a stroke and asked all his disciples to petition Lord Krishna with the prayer “My dear Lord, my spiritual master has not yet completed his work. Please protect him.” In the burgeoning Haight-Ashbury temple, Yamuna and the other devotees stayed up all night praying and chanting. They later received word from Swamiji: “Due to your sincere and ardent prayer, Krishna has saved my life.” To recuperate, Swamiji returned to India, and from Vrindavan wrote to Gurudasa: “Regarding Yamuna, your wife, I’ve got a very great regard, because she is a very sincere girl. I’m sure you should feel fortunate to have such a wife. Please offer my blessings to her, and always cooperate with your wife in the service of the Lord. You'll be happy eternally.” (August 24, 1967)

Inspired to please Swamiji and Lord Krishna, in 1967 the San Francisco devotees celebrated the Western world’s first Rathayatra. They reported to Swamiji: “It was wonderful! It was a beautiful day. The hippies loved it, and so many joined the procession that the parade had to move slowly.” Yamuna was on the cart, sometimes playing the harmonium and singing over the loudspeakers and at other times distributing flowers and cut fruits to people in the crowd.

His health restored, Swamiji continued to enhance his followers’ service to Krishna.

Yamuna: The very first decoration that was given to Lord Jagannatha was given by Swamiji in December of 1967 when he returned from India. He explained that we could make clothes for Lord Jagannatha, and he asked for volunteers to sew. Harsharani and I volunteered. So for the 1968 Rathayatra, Jagannatha, Subhadra, and Balarama were in red satin, and we got some wonderful garlands of fragrant flowers for their red turbans.

London, 1968

Swamiji had complete faith in Krishna and faith that his disciples’ bold, enthusiastic, and confident preaching would establish Krishna consciousness in Europe just as it had in North America. At Swamiji’s request, the same three couples who had started the San Francisco temple—Mukunda and Janaki, Syamasundara and Malati (now with their infant daughter, Sarasvati), and Gurudasa and Yamuna—went to London.

In London, with little money, living as separate couples in different parts of the city, and without tangible progress even after months of trying, the six of them sometimes became discouraged and talked of going back to America. Swamiji’s letters to them, however, gave them the inspiration and strength to continue. They’d read and re-read his words and dream of him joining them.


Yamuna: I had to move to a Jamaican ghetto, the top floor of one of the buildings. It was awful. Day after day after day I would sit and listen to a tape of Swamiji singing. It was a beautiful tape he had just done in Los Angeles. And I would pray to him, “Please come. Please come.”

Swamiji wrote to Yamuna: “Your appreciation of Srimad-Bhagavad-gita and Teachings of Lord Chaitanya is so nice. Please continue to study and preach in this way to all you meet. I am very happy to learn that you are going to various homes and lecture halls and holding kirtana and delivering lectures from these transcendental literatures. This is very nice. And if you continue in this way, gradually so many people will be attracted, and our London center will be very soon successful.” (October 3, 1968)

The six of them repeatedly tried to contact the Beatles, and after many failed attempts, in the middle of a winter of struggle, Syamasundara finally met George Harrison. George, searching for spirituality, was attracted to the devotees and offered to produce a record on the Apple label with the devotees singing.

On the day of the recording the devotees assembled at EMI studios on Abbey Road. Yamuna applied Vaishnava tilaka to the foreheads of the recording technicians, and then, with Paul McCartney and his wife, Linda, operating the control console, the session began. George played organ and Mukunda playedmridanga. Yamuna, praying to Prabhupada for spiritual strength, sang the lead, with Syamasundara backing her and the other voices blended in a chorus. Afterward George said, “This is going to be big.” In a short time the song was on the top of the charts, a smash hit.


Eager to fulfill his spiritual master’s desire to bring Krishna conscious to Europe and drawn by his disciples’ dedication, Swamiji joined them in England. On the invitation of Beatle John Lennon he stayed with his disciples in John’s Tittenhurst Park estate. There, after his daily morning walk on the estate, Swamiji would sit alone and sing prayers, accompanying himself on the harmonium. Yamuna would sit silently on the stairs outside his room, listening and crying in appreciation. One morning when he’d finished singing, Swamiji called her. She went into his room, and he asked her what she was doing.

“I’m listening, Swamiji. Your singing is beautiful.”

“Do you want to come in and listen?”

“Yes, very much.”

“You can play drum and I will play harmonium. Purushottama can play karatalas.”

For several mornings Yamuna recorded Swamiji singing a prayer by Narottama Dasa Thakura calledHari Hari Bifale. Swamiji explained the meaning: “O Lord Hari, I have wasted my life. Although I have taken a rare human birth, like a miser I have not served Radha and Krishna and thus I have knowingly drunk poison.”

Swamiji then said, “Yamuna Prabhu, what is your favorite prayer?”

“I like the Sikshashtaka prayers.”

“That’s very nice.”

“Swamiji, what is your favorite prayer?”

“This prayer, Hari Hari Bifale.”


Before Swamiji had arrived in England, the devotees had acquired a building at Bury Place in central London. When Syamasundara completed the renovation needed to turn it into a temple, Swamiji, now addressed by the more appropriate name Srila Prabhupada, installed beautiful white marble deities of Radha and Krishna.


Yamuna: This was a real growth period in London. Just as there was a burgeoning of youth interested in spiritual life and breaking out of the mold of the ’50s and ’60s in the United States, this happened in London at the same time. We attracted people mostly through the holy name. Prabhupada’s arrival in 1969 was the catalyst. We were the seeds being planted, and he was the blossoming creeper of Lord Chaitanya’s love. And when he came, everything ignited with the thunder and voracity and speed of a firestorm.

From the San Francisco days, Prabhupada had encouraged Yamuna to train newcomers in Krishna consciousness. He’d written her: “I am very glad to learn that you are training the two boys in Krishna consciousness. . . . You are a very nice girl and I have got full faith in you and I wish that you can develop this line of service to the society.” (May 23, 1968) And in London, Prabhupada’s desire that she train others continued: “I am very glad to learn that your training program is going on and the result is that now men are trained for opening and maintaining new branches. This is very encouraging to me.” (July 26, 1970)


Prabhupada also personally taught Yamuna deity worship and was pleased with her service: “Regarding our London Math at 7 Bury Place, it was very successfully opened and the seva puja operations are going on very, very nicely under the care of Srimati Yamuna Devi.” (January 21, 1970)

Based on Yamuna’s recommendations Srila Prabhupada accepted new disciples: “I received [Monique’s, Evelyne’s, and Joelle’s] respective letters and recommendations of initiation from Yamuna Devi, and I am sending the beads by separate mail duly chanted.” (February 8, 1970)

Also by letter Srila Prabhupada acknowledged Yamuna’s preaching in London: “I was so glad to learn that you have defeated four of the whips of the Rama Krishna Mission by giving quotation from theBhagavad-gita.” (February 10, 1970) And he wrote, “If you carry on your service to Radha and Krishna according to the prescribed rules, your love of Krishna will increase more and more; this you are seeing practically by the grace of Krishna.” (January 16, 1970)

India, 1970


Yamuna: The two weeks we spent in Bombay were two of the most powerful weeks in my life because at this time Srila Prabhupada allowed us to taste kirtana in Lord Krishna’s Bharatavarsha. The center of our activity every day was nagar sankirtana. Our kirtana party was like a family, a tight family. We were shoulder to shoulder, just like godbrothers and godsisters, with so much affection and respect for each other. We felt that Srila Prabhupada was our father and we were his spiritual children. Kirtana was the life-giving aspect of our existence.

From Bombay Srila Prabhupada took his disciples throughout India to preach. One evening, when their train pulled into the New Delhi station for a twenty-minute stopover, a Mr. D. D. Gupta from Delhi, whom Prabhupada had corresponded with, met Prabhupada on the train. He wanted to help the preaching and invited Prabhupada to stay in Delhi. Prabhupada already had programs scheduled in Bombay but told Gurudasa, “This man is inviting us. Get down and see what you can do.” The train was to leave immediately; there was no time for discussion. Gurudasa agreed, and he and Yamuna and fourbrahmacharis got off the train to try to start an ISKCON temple in Delhi. Her few belongings beside her, Yamuna offered obeisances outside Prabhupada’s window and prayed for his blessings as the train pulled away.


From Bombay Prabhupada wrote to Gurudasa and at the end of the letter added, “My dear Yamuna, please accept my blessings. Practically you are the leader of the party. Please let me know how things are going. Hope you are all well. ACB” (November 7, 1970)

In their attempts to get things going in Delhi, Yamuna and Gurudasa met many Indian leaders, and Prabhupada wrote to them, “I am so glad to know that you are seeing all the MPs and officials in the government service and if you can make each of them a member of our Society it will be a great service. Try to do it to your best capacity. I am also very much pleased that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is now personally well known to you. For your presence only she has given special order for our devotees stay in Delhi. Certainly this is a good achievement.” (October 17, 1971)

Later, Gurudasa and Yamuna agreed to remain in Vrindavan to help build a temple there, and Prabhupada wrote them, “If you can construct a nice temple in Vrindavan for me in this way, I shall be eternally grateful. . . . Because you are sincere devotees of Krishna, He is giving you all strength and intelligence how to do it.” (December 19, 1972)


And to Gurudasa Srila Prabhupada wrote separately, “I am confident I have entrusted this Vrindavan project, which is one of the most important of our ISKCON, to the right persons, namely, yourself, your good wife, Yamuna Devi, and Kshirodakashayi Prabhu. . . . So far your question regarding women, I have always accepted the service of women without any discrimination.” (May 13 and 26, 1972)

Renunciation, 1975

In 1975 Gurudasa took sannyasa. On the occasion Srila Prabhupada said, “Now he is Gurudasa Swami . . . . I got him married. His wife is also a great devotee, Yamuna. So now Yamuna has taken a very nice path. She has also become sannyasini. Although there is no sannyasini for women, but she has voluntarily taken. She is doing very nicely; therefore I advised her husband, 'You also take sannyasa.'" (July 21, 1975)

Yamuna and her friend Dinatarine began worshiping small Radha-Krishna deities Srila Prabhupada named Sri Sri Radha Banabehari. Prabhupada instructed his two devoted disciples, “You can attract the fair sex community. . . . If you can organize all these girls they will get a transcendental engagement and may not be allured to the frustration of life. Your engagement should be chanting and worship of the deity. . . . It is better that you don't make a large program. Remain a humble program.” (January 13, 1976) Yamuna and Dinatarine reported to him, “We have taken your instructions very seriously . . . living a pure simple life in the full fire of Krishna consciousness. We think this is most beneficial and are factually tasting the results of this simple life."

Srila Prabhupada’s Beloved Disciple


In 1971 Srila Prabhupada had told Yamuna, “Don’t think that physical presence is the only way to associate with the spiritual master. You try to hear.”

Yamuna: For me this was a tremendous learning moment. Up until then, I couldn’t conceive of being separated from Prabhupada or that he would die. But at this time I realized that there would be a point in the future when I would be physically separated from him and I would have to come to terms with that.

From the time of her initiation until her passing in 2011, Yamuna Devi Dasi followed Srila Prabhupada’s instructions with abiding faith, daily serving Krishna with exceptional expertise and deep devotion, profoundly relishing Krishna’s holy names through kirtana and japa, and absorbing herself in Srila Prabhupada’s books and recorded words. During decades of devoted service, her love for Prabhupada and his gift of Krishna consciousness intensified, transcending time and circumstance, and she sincerely extended that love to all, especially young people. In her presence, the joy and wonder of faithfully following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions made Srila Prabhupada’s presence palpable. People throughout the world have been and continue to be transcendentally inspired by Srila Prabhupada’s devoted servant Yamuna Devi Dasi. And the hearts of those who were close to her continue to reverberate with her humility, affection, cheerfulness, incredible creativity, loving encouragement, and the gratitude she felt for every aspect of bhakti.



"Your appreciation of the Rathayatra festival and realizing the beauty of kirtana and Jagannatha as well as the magnanimity of Lord Chaitanya in His sublime teachings, are some of the wonderful things that I mark in your progressive advancement in Krishna consciousness. Please try to continue this attitude and you will be more and more happy in your life, and at the end, get entrance into the association of Krishna." (Letter from Srila Prabhupada to Yamuna Devi Dasi, July 16, 1968)

About the Author: 

Vishakha Devi Dasi

Vishakha (pronounced Vi-shA-khA) Devi Dasi received an Associate of Applied Science degree with honors from Rochester Institute of Technology and shortly afterwards published her first book, Photomacrography: Art and Techniques. In 1971 she traveled to India, where she met His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, read his Bhagavad-gita As It Is, and eventually became his student. She traveled with and photographed Bhaktivedanta Swami and his students in India, Europe, and the United States.

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When I first met Akincana Krishna dasa Babaji, I didn’t know what to say. I simply offered my respects and said, “Srila Akincana Krishna dasa Babaji Maharaja ki jaya!”

Maharaja saw that I had a tape recorder in my hands, and without my having to say anything, he closed his eyes and started tapping his hands together and sang his mangala-carana before singing Sri Krishna Chaitanya. When he started singing the Hare Krishna mantra, it was like going into another world. He was chanting so beautifully, and it was like each syllable was drenched in bhava and prema.

After about twenty minutes, he stopped. He looked at me and said, “I would like to tell you something.”

“What is that?” I said.

He said, “I am an old man, and I’ve had a lot of experience in this world. From my experience, I can honestly tell you that there has never been a greater acharya than your spiritual master [Srila A.  C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada].”

When he said that, I was stunned, because he was a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Then he looked up and he said, “There has never been an acharya in history who has performed miracles like your spiritual master.”

He paused and looked at me and asked, “Do you know why?”

I couldn’t speak.

“Because in history there was never a greater servant of Sri Krishna’s holy name than your spiritual master, because your spiritual master had so much absolute understanding of Sri Krishna’s holy name and so much absolute faith in Sri Krishna’s holy name that he personally carried Sri Krishna’s holy name through the length and the breadth of the world. Therefore, he is the greatest acharya who has ever existed.”

Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!


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Some of What Went On by Bhaktimarga Swami


There is a slippery dynamic to the roads which run through the village of Saranagati.  Ride offers were given by motorists but I insisted on using my legs.  The few destinations I reached were ridiculously short in distance, in any case.  I do love this village of residents who are all bhakti yogis, but if I would offer one criticism, people here should do more trekking between their homes. These rural homes are not set particularly close to each other, yet they are close enough that walking between them could do a heckuva lot of good, health-wise.  Let us become less car dependent is what I would suggest. 

Soon we were off to the seminar room in what is called the “ISKCON temple".  We discussed topics concerning the use of plastic in our centres and households.  We dove deep into discussing violence, domestic or otherwise, and also sexual misconduct by leaders.   
On the brighter side, we found the presentations by the group “Krishna Vancouver” to be most inspiring.  The group takes to heart that, as our guru, Prabhupada, expressed, we need not be stereotypical in the way we share Krishna Consciousness.  He implied we must find innovative ways to do so, but at the same time not compromise our core values.  We discussed tithing and came up with the terminology MMG, which stands for "My Monthly Gratitude".
At the end of the day of meetings, I walked to the home of Manu and Satarupa for evening kirtan.  This was sweet.
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From Back to Godhead

By Kesava Bharati Swami

ARE YOU READY to hear about a miracle? Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with yet another story about some pseudo-miracle-worker. This story is about a seventy-nine-year-old woman completely set in her ways who, at the most difficult time of death, had a change of heart that brought her from the brink of terror to tears of joy.

The woman was my mother. Born Nadine Alma Eastlack, she was conservative to the extreme. Her early life read like a chapter from John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Her family narrowly escaped the dust bowl by migrating from Grinnell, Kansas, to the “Promised Land” of Southern California, landing in the fire of the Great Depression. After struggling to put herself through college and marrying a minor war hero, Leslie Waldo Beck, she attained middle-class status.

While raising me, their only child, in the northern California town of Oroville, my parents both worked he as a parts manager of a local car dealership, and she as a high school teacher of sewing, cooking, and home economics. My parents watched with pride as their only son excelled in music, scholarship, and athletics, achieving numerous awards culminating in the “Young Man of the Year Award” for the class of 1964 at Oroville High. After high school, I attended UCLA, graduating with honors in 1968 and landing my first job as assistant to the studio manager at Columbia Pictures. About a year later, however, shortly after sweeping my mother off her feet with a whirlwind tour of the studio, I left that promising career, disillusioned with the superficiality of the Hollywood scene.

“My creative urges aren’t being fulfilled,” I thought, so I packed up and moved north to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district to pursue a career as a professional musician.

A Radical Change

After a year of grueling practice sessions, success emerged: I was part of a jazz-rock ensemble that toured the Bay Area with popular groups such as Boz Skaggs. Unfortunately, along with that so-called success reappeared the same falsities I had become disgusted with in Hollywood, only in a different dress: intoxicated people fighting over money, women, and power.

I began to withdraw from the mainstream of social life to study philosophies, religions, and methods of self-improvement. After a string of events too coincidental to be accidental and far too lengthy to describe here, I came face to face with my spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. By his mercy I began to realize what I had actually been missing: God consciousness. Imagine the reaction of my small-town-northern-California parents when I announced I had joined the Hare Krsnas to dedicate myself to spiritual life. They disowned me. I wasn’t even allowed in their house. That was 1972.

I had always been closer to my mother than my father, and so for years, despite having been disowned, I wrote frequent letters to her, trying to keep our relationship alive. Finally I resigned myself to the occasional letter, mainly about the weather she had taught me not to talk about politics or religion if I wanted to be happy. I gave up hope that her attitude toward my newfound way of life would ever change. I would simply keep her informed about my frequent travels.

A glimmer of hope came in 1977. I was on my way to India to join Srila Prabhupada just before he passed away, and I needed my birth certificate to secure a passport. As I hurried to make a flight out of New York, my mother agreed to drive eighty miles to bring my birth certificate to me at the Sacramento airport. I thought she might be having a change of heart, since she’d gone out of her way to help me, but that brief encounter ended on a sour note an argument about the value of worshiping the form of God through a living spiritual master. A devout Methodist, she genuinely thought I had sold my soul to Satan.

THE NEXT TIME I saw my mother was in 1981 when I went to see my father just two days before he passed away. She had withheld news of his condition until near the end, not wanting to be responsible for a possible premature death my suddenly showing up might cause. Only on my insistence did she reluctantly give me permission to come home. The resultant reunion, during which my father not only acknowledged my existence but expressed in his own way appreciation for what I was doing (“Hey, I hear you’ve become a big shot”), left my mother standing in the corner with her mouth gaping. After that the tone of our letters became slightly more familiar. I kept her more closely informed of what I was doing, but she still refused to talk about my life’s mission. Our relationship remained distant.

In the spring of 1995, having seen my mother only once, briefly, in fourteen years, I was living in Bombay when I heard from a friend that my mother was feeling neglected. She had mentioned that I wasn’t writing. That seemed odd to me since we had been corresponding regularly for years. Still, in response to that news I called her and promised to visit her the following November.

Called to the Hospital

On October 7 I received a phone call. My mother had lost consciousness and had been found by friends two days later and taken to the hospital. She had been living alone since my father had passed away, but she had always seemed strong and fearless, at least from a distance. In her letters, she had never indicated having any problems, except for a persistent backache. I had never seen her weep or show any intense emotion. This was perhaps the first major health crisis in her life.

When I called from Bombay to her hospital room, she had to think before she could remember me. After some coaxing she recalled that she had a son and that he lived in India. Her power of recall returned somewhat with the sound of my voice, and she felt less anxious. I promised to be with her as soon as possible, which proved to be ten days later.

As soon as I walked into the hospital room, Mom motioned me to her. Embracing me, with tears in her eyes, the first I’d ever seen, she said, “Please forgive me for being so closed-minded.”

Feeling ashamed, I begged her forgiveness for not being with her when she had most needed her only child. After two all-day visits, during which her condition improved dramatically, the hospital staff decided she would do better at home with me.

For two weeks I took care of the household chores and visited with my mother while a home-care staff from the hospital helped her get back on her feet. There were no signs of stroke or heart attack. The doctors concluded that she had fainted from malnutrition and dehydration. That in itself was amazing to me, since she was a retired cooking teacher and nutrition expert. The doctors said she was in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease. It was no wonder she couldn’t remember receiving my letters.

My mother and I had long talks about time, old age, and God. Her Christian faith seemed strong. Despite lapses of short-term memory, when we talked of spiritual issues she was lucid. She rose every morning, even when in pain, and read the Bible with a study guide from her church. She had always been an avid reader, but she mostly read magazines and novels. I tried to convince her to read the devotional books she had accumulated. I also tried to explain to her that the discomfort she was feeling from being withdrawn from the world was meant to encourage her to turn inward, to develop her internal, spiritual relationship with God.

As we spoke, she felt comforted and admitted she was feeling more favorable to what I was doing. She even admitted to having put me back into her living trust, although she had hesitated, not wanting to contribute anything, even indirectly, to the Krsnas. We had long since agreed to disagree, so there was no question of my trying to convince her about Krsna consciousness. But at least we were becoming closer again. The experience I had gained from twenty-three years of teaching and counseling others about spiritual life was paying off in an intensely personal way. She soon even insisted, strongly, that I return to India to continue my life’s course, which she didn’t want to interrupt.

AS I WAS TO REALIZE more clearly over the next two years, one of my mother’s prominent characteristics was her intense aversion to giving anyone trouble or taking service from anyone, including her only son. An ascetic in her own way, she had grown to love living alone. And although she was shaken by the two-day complete memory loss, which had left her weak short-term memory even weaker, her determination to stay independent was unshakeable.

Return to Bombay

Reluctantly I returned to Bombay, carrying my mother’s promise that I could come soon for another visit. I now found myself in a dilemma. For more than twenty years my life had been dedicated to the mission of my spiritual master. I was in a renounced position, wearing saffron cloth, living in India as a monk detached from family responsibilities. I had administrative and teaching duties in one of our society’s largest temples, a service that demanded full dedication, apparently ruling out frequent trips to the West to help my mother. And by choice I had no accumulated wealth or steady income.

AFTER PRAYING to Srila Prabhupada for guidance, consulting my senior Godbrothers, and thinking deeply on the situation, I concluded that I had to do whatever was needed to help my mother, despite her strong opposing will. Not only was it my God-given, scriptural duty to assist my helpless mother, and not only was I probably the only one who could do it, but the performance of this duty would purify my heart, making me a more honest person. Later I would realize the potency created by taking the trouble to fully care for someone and by setting an example for others to follow.

I phoned my mother regularly from Bombay. During those conversations it became clear she was in an intense state of denial. She feared she was losing her independence. In that anxiety, considering me a possible threat, she began to subtly discourage me from coming by repeatedly reminding me how much she was enjoying being alone. Luckily, her explicit letter asking me not to come arrived in Bombay while I was on my next flight to Oroville, in January 1996.

In Need of Help

There she was, sitting on her spot on the couch, surrounded by stacks of opened and unopened mail, looking helpless. Her credit card had expired, and she had received notices for unpaid utility bills. Normally an extraordinarily organized and tidy person, she tried to explain the situation away by insisting she had thought I was coming the next day and was sorting things that needed to be thrown away. But when I found the refrigerator empty, she could no longer hide that she needed help.

I began to organize her affairs, arranging automatic payments, establishing relationships with her banker, lawyer, doctor, and the local merchants with whom she shopped. I cooked for her and arranged for meals to be delivered when I wasn’t present. In between expressions of self-pity and anger, she regularly broke down in tears of love in appreciation for what I was doing.

This time I brought my worshipful Deity, Giri-Govardhana, a small piece of Govardhana Hill. (Krsna had lifted Govardhana like an umbrella to protect the residents of His village from a devastating rainstorm. Learned authorities accept Giri-Govardhana as spiritually the same as Krsna Himself.) The morning procedures I followed were elaborate compared to any religious service my mother had seen. At first she was suspicious and skeptical. She thought the paraphernalia was material and you couldn’t worship God with material things. I explained that everything belongs to God and should be offered to Him with love and devotion. After a few days her tone changed slightly.

“You certainly go to a lot of trouble to do that every morning, don’t you?” she said.

“Well,” I replied, “I’m serving God; don’t you think I should take some trouble?”

Shortly after that, while passing by she asked, “Need any help with the dishes?”

Her devotional service had begun.

Spiritual Inquiry in Oroville

During the next year and a half I made four more visits to Oroville from Bombay. During that time a childhood classmate of mine (since kindergarten), Jean Mather, who was also my mother’s ex-student, began to take serious interest in what I was doing. Apparently my presence was creating somewhat of a sensation around town. Jean, appreciating my answers to her questions, arranged programs in her home and lectures in a comparative religion class at a local college.

Among the professionals I was dealing with, some became impressed that I was coming all the way from Bombay just to help my mother. Jackie Pogue, my mother’s banker, was especially helpful in reacquainting me with a financial system I hadn’t used in the eighteen years I had been living outside the country. She extended herself in special ways, even visiting my mother at home to make sure her accounts were in order.

I didn’t preach to anyone. I just tried to be as friendly, conscientious, and caring as I could, but in my normal attire as a devotee of Krsna. And the local people responded. As they became accustomed to seeing me doing everyday chores, whatever resistance the conservative residents of that small northern-California town had to an orange-clad, shaven-headed Hare Krsna monk with stripes on his forehead melted away, and I found myself mostly absorbed in explaining Krsna consciousness wherever I went. A group of interested people began meeting once a week to hear seriously about Krsna consciousness.

I promised my mother that whatever adjustments to her life we were making together were simply meant to keep her at home. She had saved enough for professional care, if required, but was adamant about not going into a nursing home. Neither did she want to become bedridden. But with each visit, I watched her slowly deteriorate. And yet at the same time I also witnessed an intensely powerful effort on her part to stay regulated and active against tremendous odds. She began to feel secure as she saw for herself that I was simply trying to help her execute her own will, and our relationship flourished. I learned to appreciate more deeply the value of her association, especially in my formative years when she had instilled within me values that later enabled me to take spiritual life seriously.

WHENEVER I WAS back in Bombay, I kept in touch with Jean to monitor the situation. On April 14, 1997, she informed me by e-mail that she had discovered that my mother had been bleeding for “who knows how long.” Mom had been afraid of going to the doctor, thinking he would put her into the hospital. So Jean had taken her to her doctor, and the preliminary report wasn’t good. There appeared to be a growth in her uterus, but the condition of the mass had to be analyzed. I decided to be with her when she went back to the doctor.

I arrived on April 17 and the next day took my mother to receive the results of her tests. Sure enough, she had a huge malignant tumor. Anemic from loss of blood, she was weak and underweight, since the tumor had been taking most of her energy. Still, my mother’s reaction was consistent with her character. She refused to submit to any treatment. She declared in no uncertain terms that she wanted nature to take its course. Even if she had requested treatment, Dr. Joy admitted that he could not in good conscience prescribe the necessary treatment for such a large growth unless her anemia could be corrected and she gained some weight and strength; otherwise, any treatment could be fatal. He was forced by his oath to reveal to us that she was terminally ill, with probably no more than one year to live.

The next day my mother couldn’t remember having had the appointment, what to speak of the diagnosis. For more than a year our conversations had prepared us for this inevitability, but it was coming much sooner than expected. Following a few days of unconscious denial and deep philosophical and emotional exchanges, she finally understood and accepted that she was terminally ill. Not that she was a particularly philosophical person. She was simple in her approach to matters of life and death. But being completely honest, she could grasp the truth when it was presented straightforwardly.

After consulting with Tamal Krsna Goswami and Sivarama Swami, my two best friends, with whom I had been keeping in touch almost daily, I decided to stay on as her caretaker until the end. Being officially a terminal patient, she was now eligible for hospice care, which provided essential backup services. And so Krsna began making arrangements for my dear mother beyond either of our expectations.

While talking, my mother stayed alert and lucid, apparently in good spirits. But as soon as we stopped she either fell asleep or became overwhelmed by lamentation. To no avail, I tried again to convince her to read her own spiritual books. Finally, she confessed a crisis of faith. She didn’t know what she was supposed to be doing. She had become overly dependent on her daily routine. Forced to abandon it, she couldn’t focus her mind and had doubts about God’s existence. Her pastor had visited her once in the hospital, but since then he’d been busy preparing to transfer to another church. She felt as if living in a spiritual vacuum.

I decided to make an experiment by reading to her the Krsna book, Srila Prabhupada’s summary study of the Tenth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, which describes the pastimes of Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Her first reaction was, “What are you reading to me, a fairy tale or a nursery rhyme?”

I explained that these were the pastimes of God, descriptions of what was happening in His kingdom. Her only duty now was to hear about these things, the only subject matter powerful enough to absorb her mind. She sat back and listened. I began reading for one half hour daily, gradually increasing to three hours. Difficult as it was to keep her attention, I strained to read loudly and forcibly, with as much dramatic flair as I could.

One day, about thirteen chapters later, I looked up from the book to see her practically on the edge of her seat, eyes wide like saucers, her face changed.

“Mom, it looks like you’re enjoying this story,” I said.

“Oh yes, it’s wonderful!” she replied. “I’ve never experienced anything quite like this. And you’re reading it so nicely.”

“Maybe we should go back to the beginning of the book,” I suggested.

“Oh yes, please do,” she implored. “I have so many questions.”

HEARING KRSNA’S pastimes from Srila Prabhupada had lifted her out of her body. I got out my laptop and went to the beginning of the Srimad-Bhagavatam in the Bhaktivedanta Archives folio program, reading from the Preface, pausing while she asked questions. I carefully explained whatever I had learned from Srila Prabhupada about the science of Krsna consciousness. This went on for hours each day until May 30, when the crisis arrived.

The growth began intruding on her bladder, causing complications I couldn’t deal with. Despite my promise that I wouldn’t take her to the hospital, she allowed me to call an ambulance. I stayed up with her that night in the emergency room and the next day in the hospital. The emergency team and her family doctor concluded that not much could be done except to keep her as comfortable as possible. They agreed to allow her to go home. While the hospital staff arranged for her discharge, I ordered a hospital bed and the necessary paraphernalia to care for her. I also bought a CD player, thinking that I should introduce her to devotional songs chanted by Srila Prabhupada. On June 2, 1997, she went home.

A Strong Connection

The thing my mother had dreaded most had happened. She was bedridden. But she was thankful to be in her own home and to have me as her caretaker. We took up where we had left off in our reading, and her questions became more personal. The loving feelings exchanged between my mother and me during her last few days are difficult to describe. They are rare in this world and testify to the power of Krsna consciousness and the association of Krsna’s devotees.

On the evening of June 5, a name Nandarani popped into my mind while I was chanting with my mother.

Then it dawned on me that my mother had become a devotee.

“This is amazing,” I thought.

Before retiring that night, I looked at her and said, “Hare Krsna, Mom.”

She responded without hesitation, saying for the first time in her life “Hare Krsna!”

The sound was so powerful I felt moved by its force.

Mom and Her Guru

I had been keeping in touch with Sivarama Swami by e-mail, and the next day I received a message from him. He assured me I was doing the best thing by staying by my mother’s side. Krsna had lightened my responsibilities in Bombay so that I could do this.

“This will mend your relationship with your mother,” Sivarama Swami wrote, “and help you in your emotional and hence spiritual life. I’m a hundred percent clear that you should continue what you are doing. . . . I hope that when I pass away I will have the kind of loving care she has.”

Sivarama Swami then asked me to give the following message to my mother:

Dear Mrs. Beck,
Hare Krsna

You don’t know me, but I have heard a lot about you and know you indirectly. Your son, Kesava Bharati, is one of my closest friends and we’ve been acquaintances for the last twenty years. So I guess you and I are also related in that way. I have heard about your terminal situation and am praying for you. I think Krsna has really looked after you, due to some great fortune of yours. You have such a loving son, who is also an elevated Vaisnava, to care for you and give you spiritual guidance in the last moments of your life. This type of opportunity is rare and unique. You are very, very lucky.
Since you really have nothing to do at this point other than think about Krsna, try to focus your mind on His name, form, activities whatever attracts you the most. By your son’s association and such effort, no doubt you will achieve a most glorious destination soon. I am a bit far away, here in Budapest, but I think we are close spiritually. I will pray for your success at this momentous hour and intently follow your progress closer to Krsna.

If I can be of any other help, please let me know.
Your well-wisher,
Sivarama Swami

Then Sivarama Swami suggested to me that my mother be initiated.

“She should get every spiritual boost she can,” he wrote. “If she takes it seriously, I will give her a name. What do you think?”

I wrote back, telling him that the name Nandaranihad come into my mind the night before.

“I’m convinced that Krsna arranged that we both simultaneously thought the same thing,” I wrote. “When I read your letter to her, she was amazed at how, having never met her, you could write such a personal letter. I explained to her that the meaning of the conversations we’ve been having are coming to life now and that it was natural for her to come in contact with a bona fide spiritual master. When I told her that you and I were both thinking about her connecting with a spiritual master for gaining support and strength at this crucial time, in tears she immediately accepted, saying, ‘Yes, this is just what I need and want. Please arrange it.’ “

I asked Sivarama Swami to send a letter accepting her as his disciple. I told him that she knew exactly what she was doing and I would help her with the chanting.

In Sivarama Swami’s letter to my mother accepting her as his disciple, he wrote: “I am always amazed at how Krsna works so mysteriously. … Srila Prabhupada said that a good child indicates that the parents must be good. You have such a good son, so you must also be a good person. Now that you are chanting Hare Krsna, that makes you perfect. Therefore, why should I not accept you and let our eternal relationship begin?”

After explaining the meaning of her new name, Sivarama Swami continued:

We are servants and eternal family members of the Lord. You should try to understand that we have no other identification.
The world we live in is temporary. Our eternal, original home is the spiritual world. From there Lord Krsna descends to attract us lost souls back to His service. In that place, all speaking is song, all walking a dance, and all beings live eternally in full happiness. There everyone lives in harmony, accepting their position as a servant of the Lord. . . .
Try to absorb yourself in thoughts of Krsna. That is possible by always chanting God’s holy names: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. As much as possible chant aloud or in your mind to yourself. If you do so carefully, you will understand that Krsna is not different from His name, and by this chanting He will transport you back to Godhead. Srila Prabhupada said, “This is the test. If one chants Krsna’s name at the time of death, he is guaranteed to go back to Him.” So try to concentrate on this chanting until the last breath. Krsna has sent Kesava Bharati there to help remind you when the time comes to chant. Remember to follow his direction when he instructs you.
Kesava Bharati is not just your son. He is your guru. He has saved you at the last minute and given you the greatest treasure, Krsna. He is a fitting son, for he has repaid his debt to you. Now you are indebted to him. That debt you can repay by chanting always. I am your initiator and he is your instructor guru. So now we are together. May you receive the full blessings of Lord Krsna. I feel happy that we have met like this, and I leave you in the capable hands of my good friend, your son and well-wisher.

THE DAY OF HER initiation, my mother had another crisis. Nurses from the hospice twice had to help her eliminate, because the tumor was intruding. She lost a lot of energy, so when I read her Sivarama Swami’s letter, it was difficult for her to reply. But she managed to say that she was eternally indebted to him and was trying to do the right thing. While in agony, she called out “Hare Krsna” again and again. When she woke up in the evening, after resting for some time, she could barely speak but asked me who was God. I replied confidently that Krsna is God.

Shaking her head affirmatively, she repeated again and again, “Krsna is God. Krsna is God.”

After I told her that hearing is the same as chanting, all she wanted to hear was Srila Prabhupada chanting.

The next day, I read Sivarama Swami’s letter to my mother again to see if she remembered what had been happening. Before reading it, I said I wasn’t sure if she would remember what had happened the day before. She quickly replied that of course she remembered.

As I read the letter again, I became overwhelmed by emotion and began weeping like a baby. She took my hand and looked at me in a very knowing, loving way.

When I finally made it through the letter, she had tears in her eyes as she repeated her name a few times. Then she said over and over, “This is so nice.” She told me to tell Sivarama Swami that she is happy to have met him.

I taught her the maha-mantra just after she received her new name, and she began chanting as much as possible. I could see that Srila Prabhupada was pouring mercy on her, giving her a well-deserved peace at the end. She said that she only wanted to be with me, that I should politely tell everyone she wasn’t receiving visitors.

She asked me to play Srila Prabhupada’s tapes constantly, and I chanted out loud to her. The hospice people commented on how strong the spiritual atmosphere was surrounding us. They were professionals who deal with family members and death every day, but without exception they testifed that they had never experienced anything like this.

ONE MORNING, when I said “Hare Krsna” to my mother, she at once responded with “Haribol” [“Please chant the names of God”] and smiled a kind of knowing smile. I was speechless. I wondered where she had heard that phrase. Then I remembered that my son had stayed with her for a few months while attending college nearby. She must have heard it from him because his habit is to say Haribol more than Hare Krsna. I was shocked to witness her transformation.

My mother became sweet and charming company. I moved the weekly program to our home, and after hearing me lead kirtana, lecture, and answer questions for the first time in a public program, my mother made me promise that I would “go on and on preaching Krsna consciousness.”

A few days after her initiation, my mother completely withdrew, even from me. At first she showed symptoms that made us all think she would pass away peacefully during the night. But the next morning she seemed disturbed and in severe pain. She spoke, but her words indicated she was bewildered and disoriented. The hospice nurses told me those were symptoms of a person close to death.

My mother began calling out Krsna’s name over and over when she was in pain. That inoffensive chanting was making her eligible to go back to Godhead.

I wrote to Sivarama Swami:

It’s amazing how powerful the material energy is. The hospice people say that the cancer has entered the bones and therefore managing her pain is increasingly difficult. She seems peaceful and free from pain for hours, but if you slightly move her she’s immediately in crisis pain. I may be forced to slightly sedate her to make her comfortable. Her anxiety is making it very difficult for her to hear as she had been hearing just before she accepted her initiation.
Nandarani doesn’t have the years of practice we’ve had. Her newfound feelings and commitment to Krsna consciousness, while real and meaningful, are undeveloped and therefore hard to maintain under the extreme circumstances she’s in. The only thing she responds to is constant preaching and the sound of Srila Prabhupada chanting. Let’s see how she responds when the pain is under control again. All the descriptions in the scriptures about the time of death are coming alive.
Please pray that her memory doesn’t fail and that she can keep remembering to the end.

By June 10 my mother had withdrawn almost completely. I played Srila Prabhupada’s tapes to her constantly, and she had become most attached to hearing him chant before she withdrew. Her vital signs were strong because she had lived a fairly clean life. I lamented that she hadn’t cultivated Krsna consciousness more in this life.

I kept reading to her descriptions of the spiritual world and trying to convince her to let go of the miserable material body and give herself to Krsna.

“All right, Nandarani,” I kept saying, “the runway is cleared for takeoff. You’ve taxied enough. Push down on the throttle and just go back to Krsna.”

She would sometimes move her mouth to indicate she wanted Srila Prabhupada’s chanting to continue. I knew everything was in Krsna’s hands, but I kept trying to absorb her in transcendental sound until her last breath. I read to her Sivarama Swami’s letter numerous times, and that helped her regain her focus while she was conscious. She cried out Krsna’s name in helplessness a number of times. I had complete faith that she had become eligible for a much better situation, even if she didn’t go back to Godhead.

MY DEAR mother, Srimati Nandarani Devi Dasi, departed peacefully sometime between 1:30 A.M. and 2:30 A.M. on July 11, 1997. I had dozed off, being emotionally and physically exhausted, so she was alone, which was consistent with her character as a very private person. Srila Prabhupada was chanting Hare Krsna during her departure, and I had just put water from Radha-Kunda, the most sacred of all holy lakes, in her mouth before I dozed. She had already received the water of Radha-Kunda a few times earlier that evening when she seemed about to leave. She was decorated with Vaisnava tilaka and tulasi neck beads.

Just a few hours before departing, my mother seemed to be leaving while I was dancing and chanting to a loudkirtana on Srila Prabhupada’s “Happening” album. We were alone in her house, exactly as she had wanted. She looked quite beautiful. The weather had been hot more than a hundred degrees, without a cloud in the sky. But in the evening, just before dusk, it began to rain gently, as if someone were pouring water from a big sprinkling can. I could understand that my mother was not an ordinary person. All glories to Nandarani Devi Dasi!

I wrote again to Sivarama Swami, giving him the news and thanking him for initiating her before her departure: “I know that she has your full mercy and the mercy of so many other great Vaisnavas and, as a result, has attained either the spiritual world or an exalted position before returning to Vraja the eternal abode of Krsna.”

Memorial Service

About fifty people attended a memorial service in my mother’s church. Before she departed she had told me she didn’t want a memorial service, but when her friends insisted, I agreed for their sake.

After the service, the pastor had me speak to the congregation. The first words he spoke in his remembrance of Nandarani were that she was a saint. I was surprised. I had been thinking to start my talk in a similar way, but I was concerned that it be too much for such a conservative crowd. Still, in my talk I listed the divine qualities inBhagavad-gita and gave examples of my mother’s behavior and character to confirm that she was indeed a saintly person.

Then I shared with the congregation how our relationship had come to a deep level of communion from an extremely estranged condition, how we had called on the names of God together, achieving a rare state of oneness I likened to a miracle. We had realized together that there was only one God. I ended by saying that to me our relationship symbolized a simple solution for a world in dire need of oneness amid cultural differences.

After the service, whatever doubt I’d had about having spoken too intimately to such a conservative Christian audience was removed by my mother’s friends, who all expressed how much they had enjoyed the message.

There was no funeral. My son, Rama, and I went alone to the gravesite and chanted together Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.


Read more…

Part 2



This is several questions made in the form of an article. I find them intriguing and aspire for answers. I beg kind insightful devotees to offer insights, and, if they find time, to evaluate or critique the answers which i have offered according to my own limited understanding. The very questions are written in bold text. The purpose of this is for my insignificant self to gain clearer understanding on the subject. That would help me in completing a written presentation on Vedic culture, which is under preparation. (Actually, in the whole picture that modern academia has about the Vedic culture, this subject is a pretty foundational one.)

The article is in 3 parts:
1. “Vedic” Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit – nature and origin of differences
2. Further differences within Vedic Sanskrit itself, as well as within Classical Sanskrit itself
3. Other languages’ relations with Sanskrit

To answer some of the questions, we will need a person who has certain learning in both the linguistics and the scriptures. As i suppose that among us there might be not a very great number of those, i therefore beg you, if you know some devotee of such qualifications, let them know of this humble request, so that they may decide to help here.

The main parts of the main questions are as underlined text. The main parts of the subsidiary questions are as dash-underlined text. There are also smaller questions as normal text.

In responding to this article, i beg devotees to please give clear references, as far as possible, to back up their insights or conclusions. This helps tremendously to define a clear understanding of topics. Also, this inquirer can be reached at Any clarifications will be very welcome.

I humbly thank the readers in advance.

In the 1st part of the article i tried to summarize upon the differences between the Vedic and Classical Sanskrit, and to summarize a couple of views upon the question of the origins of those differences ( Mainly, the question is whether we can accept as sastric the view that those differences exist eternally, as two natural and eternal varieties within the unlimited expanse of the Vedic sound. We indicated that such a view is not accepted by the mainstream academy, whose contention is that those differences must have appeared only with time, as a result of natural evolution of language from its crude and primitive, rigid stages of Vedic Sanskrit, to its later, more diversified, creative and sophisticated stages of Classical Sanskrit. We somewhat discussed also a views in between of these two.

The conclusion, though open to revision, was that the sastric and samradayic view is as we said above: As far as i am concerned, the sastric data available to me, and my best reasoning, lead me to conclude that the sastras and parampara maintain that the two systems of Sanskrit , the Vaidika (“Vedic”) and Laukika (“classical”), are two eternally and “simultaneously existing dialects of the same language, one liturgical and the other vernacular,” and that there are unlimited different minor dialects within both of these two major Sanskrit-systems, and all of them existing within original Vedic sound. However, i would beg learned devotees, for their confirmation or otherwise, and for their sharing of some of their insights on the topic.

Part 2


The next interesting point is that the linguists identify several different “layers” of Sanskrit, or its “dialects”, grammatical and stylistic variations of it, within the Vedic Sanskrit (means within the sruti literature itself). Then, within the smriti-literature itself (comprising Puranas and other classical-sanskrit literature), they also identify several different “layers”, or variations, of the classical Sanskrit itself.

That fact is not inconsistent with the statements of the sastras and sampradaya, for those statements clearly allow that, apart from the major differences between the two major systems, there exist also unlimited different minor dialects within both of these two major Sanskrit-systems, and all of them existing within original Vedic sound, as we said a few lines above, as well as in the part 1 of the article.

The variations within the Vedic Sanskrit i find nicely summarized by Gopiparanadhana P, in the paragraph from which we have cited previously:

„… The four Vedas are considered çruti, including in each Veda the Saàhitä collections of hymns and incantations, the Brähmaëa ritual interpretations, the more esoteric interpretations of the Äraëyakas, and the philosophical Upanisads. To ordinary perception, the language and contents of the Samhitäs, especially of the Rig Veda Samhitä, seem the most archaic. The Brähmanas, Äranyakas, and Upanisads appear to be afterthoughts, speculations by later generations about the meaning and purpose of the Samhitäs; they are written in a variety of successively “newer” dialects, gradually approaching “classical” Sanskrit. The Upanisads seem an altogether different sort of work, discussing as they do otherworldly concerns hardly touched upon in the “older” ritual sruti.“

Some of the Upanishads are even very close, linguistically, to the classical Sanskrit of the Puranas.

Current academic view on the differences

All this provides the reason for the historical linguists to see Sanskrit as a language which, like all other languages we know, gradually developed with the passing of millennia, not having an eternally existing system of standards. Thus they establish a chronology of the development of Sanskrit. In this chronology, those different “layers” of Sanskrit are thought to be phases of its development in the course of time. In that development, the Rig Vedic (samhita) Sanskrit is the ancientmost, then comes the (samhita)mantra-language of the Atharva, Sama and Yajur Veda, as the second “layer”, then there are two other “layers”, and then, as the last, fifth “phase”, comes the language of some of the Upanisads. Other Upanisads are even considered post-Vedic.

In such a view, the “phase” of Classical Sanskrit begins with the famous sage-grammarian, Panini, who wrote the most famous known grammar-work on Sanskrit, the Astadhyayi. His work is the most systematic grammar-work preserved, and is the basis of the known classical Sanskrit. There were other grammarians who presented grammars, prior to him, as is known from the references in his work, as well as from the references in the works of significantly later commentators and authors. But, the works of the ancient grammarians other than Panini are lost, except for a few rare pieces.

In this world it is natural that one thinker disagrees with another on certain points, or builds on the predecessor’s points. Since the later historical commentators and authors rebut certain postulates of the ancient authors, and/or build on their opinions, mentioning them in their works, it gives an impression of being an ongoing trend, leading one to conclude that also those ancient authors were in certain disagreement with one another’s opinions on certain aspects of language and its philosophy, and that they didn’t have an already established authoritative system of knowledge on which they were but elaborating and discussing its various aspects. So again there’s an impression of gradual development of language and linguistic thought.

Then, within the classical Sanskrit literature itself, there are also linguistic differences, which allegedly seem to contribute to the same view. I remember to have read somewhere, that different smritis have different stylistic and linguistic characteristics. I cannot recall where i read it, nor can i say to have any vague but defined picture about what kind of differences those are. But on account of those differences, the historical linguists attribute different dates to different Puranas, Itihasas, and other smritis. And they serve to them as another reason to regard Sanskrit as another evolving language, and to regard the Vedic literature as any other literature that have unorganizedly amassed in time, or as Gopiparanadhana P put it, “to disregard the Vedas’ own claim to being a single, coherent whole.”: “There are many superficial reasons, therefore, for critical scholars to disregard the Vedas’ own claim to being a single, coherent whole. … indologists … try to dissect the separate organs of the Vedic corpus, unaware that the organism is actually alive.” (Tattva S. 12, pp by GPDP)

Is it the only reasonable view indeed?

Now, in this regard, i would first of all want to ask
What kind of differences are, those linguistic differences between the Puranas and Puranas, and between other smritis and other smritis?; Are they such that they necessarily indicate the changes of language with time, or they allow to be explained, perhaps with a little broadening of mind, as simply different styles and moods of literary presentation, which, although being mutually different to a certain degree, may exist simultaneously within a greater and richer original language system? Remember, that is what the Sanskrit should be, according to (my understanding of) the already cited Bhag.11.21.38 with Visvanath CT purport (see it cited the part one), which to me gives a picture of a language system unlimitedly rich and diversified within itself from the very beginning of creation (and even before it), containing diverse usable and allowable language rules, suitable to the needs and moods etc. of a subject which is to be expressed. Is this understanding allowable to apply to those smritic differences?

Now, along the same lines, i would try to suggest a general understanding by which to account for all of the differences we have mentioned thus far, whether srutic or smritic or mutual. So, for all those differences, is it allowable to view them in the way as follows:
(allowable not according to the crude academic evolutionistic prejudices and paradigms, but according to the sane logic and reason)


2.1.1 Basic paradigm for academic view – linear development of each and any structure

In any understanding, the whole picture will depend on the nature of its underlying paradigms, because it is from those basic paradigms that the entire understanding ramifies. So we start from the fundamental paradigms.

The whole academic world of the last few centuries has been built upon the underlying paradigm that every and any organized, or complex structure, is something that cannot exist originally on its own, but is something that has to develop with time and in time. No other possibility is there for the existence of anything complex and consciously organized. So, if there is a complex, many branched, multidivisioned structure, as are the language systems, it could come into existence only by a gradual development in the course of time, through many stages. If something is many-branched, then it necessarily means that each branch of a phenomenon had to develop with time, on its own, due to special factors and circumstances. So the existence of many branches of Sanskrit language and vedic literature can only mean there was a gradual accumulation and stratification of material.

But the above underlying paradigm is not something that is logically provable as a universal law, but is just an arbitrarily chosen assumption, an arbitrarily imposed axiom. After all, such a view is unable to explain its own crucial moment, the crucial moment of the very process it proposes : how the very first organized-ness came about. Thus, the bio-evolutionists were never able to explain how the first living thing came about, and in the same way, there is no valid and confirmable explanation of how the first human articulated language or languages came to exist. How the unarticulated communication, an ugh-ugh-language, where there’s no consistent connection between thoughts and words, became an organized and systematic communication where thoughts are organizedly expressed through precise sound combinations in a precise syntax, without a superior educational direction? How it came about the point where “mmm-aaaa-ugh”, combined with gesticulations, became “May I tell you about the idea that came to my mind all of a sudden?”?

Our view is that the human being, supposed to begin to communicate articulately, ought 1) to already have a ready psychological potential to do so, i.e. to articulately communicate; 2) to be given a superior educational direction which will offer him a live and ready, exact experience of such a communication during an amount of time, thus enabling him to assimilate it (whether external experience, like a child hearing others communicate, gradually assimilates the system; or internal, like a child who suddenly begins to speak a language foreign to his native language, due to the mental revival of memories from a previous life); Is there any other way to make a conscious being a speaking one? As far as i know, only vague ideas, called theories, exist, but far from anything consistent. Is this right?

2.1.2 Vedic basic paradigm – timely manifestation of already existing subtle concepts (béjas)

However, if we adopt a view that an original language, or languages system, exists on its own, then the problem disappears. And our assumption is not deniable logically. It can be denied only if we proclaim and accept the above prejudice, which says the contrary, as a logical axiom.

It is undeniably clear that for any organized-ness, there has to be an organizational concept. Without a subtle or conscious concept of the organization, there can be no organization. Without information, there can be no organization. So any organized structure necessarily requires its own seed – a conscious concept of what will the thing look like. An archetypal set of characteristics of a thing has to be there on a conscious level, in order for the thing to exist.

The Vedic system is exactly this. Any existing phenomenon has its subtle seed, or béja. Subtle means – a conscious idea of it. To understand our simple view on the multidivisioned-ness of Sanskrit language and vedic literature, one has to first deeply familiarize himself with the Vedic concept of existence. One needs to open his intellect to this option, at least, and let it go in. It is so because the whole Vedic logic of existence of things in space and time is radically different from the unfounded but deeply rooted paradigm in the academic mind of the last few centuries, which we described above. In the Vedic concept, seed for each and every one of the living forms already exist, and those seeds consist of the subtle information for each of them, i.e. the conscious ideas, for each of them. The living forms never “evolve” by a blind or unconscious process, independent of subtle information. This holds not only for the living forms, i.e. those that obviously manifest the symptoms of life, but holds actually for any complex or organized structure – no such structure develops independently of subtle information. And the whole universe is such that if we look closely to any detail of universal existence, we will find no unorganized structure – everything in the universe, to be honest, is ultimately very complex, extremely complex. Ultimately therefore, for anything existing in this universe, a subtle organizational plan is required. Indispensable. For a broad and unprejudiced intellect, such a conclusion is inescapable.

Some references about this idea of béjas: you can find it nicely summarized in “Human Devolution” by Drutakarma Prabhu (Michael Cremo), chapter 11, pages 485-486. There he corroborates the idea by the following references: BG 7.10, CC Madhya 19.152pp, S.Bhag. 3.10.7pp. Some of other relevant references would be: S.Bhag. 2.1.25pp, 2.5.11pp, 3.5.27, 7.9.33-34, 11.12.20-23, Brahma Samhita 5.13. One could find many others.

2.1.3 Extending the paradigm to language

What to say then about language, which in itself is not only undeniably organized and complex phenomenon (the linguists know it well), but is also much subtler than the mere things in the universe, and much more interconnected to consciousness and closer to it? So, in order for any language to exist at all, a set of archetypal characteristics of it should already exist somewhere on a conscious plane of the universe. The particular language will manifest exactly then when the time-energy activates its particular subtle set of archetypal characteristics, letting them manifest in the gross reality.

(As far as time, it is a divine energy that activates the latent seeds of things and events in the universe. Anything, any phenomenon and event in the universe, is the particular combination of gunas. When the time, who is the mover of the gunas, brings about that specific combination of gunas which corresponds to that event, and which is until then written on a subtle plane as the event’s seed, then that particular thing or event or phenomenon will manifest – the seed will sprout and bring the fruit. In other words, there is the seed, and when the time makes outer circumstances appropriate, the seed brings about the fruit.).

A language is a system of expressing the ideas through sound. It is extremely subtle. It involves the mind, intelligence, and the subtle prana. The qualitative properties of the system by which one expresses his ideas through sound, will depend on the quality of his internal organs – mind and intelligence, who are the repository of the ideas, thoughts and will. Altogether they may be termed, and often are, as “mind”. According to the guna-combination by which the mind is dominated, his thoughts and ideas will have a certain quality, and will condition by that quality the sound when they become expressed. They will condition by their quality the whole sound system of their expression, which is the language. And, as gunas change, the sound system will also assume changes. Necessarily. Therefore, different languages “develop” by the manifesting of specific combinations of the gunas in the course of time. Thus for any language there already exists a set of its archetypal characteristics, latently present in the gunas themselves.

As far as Sanskrit is concerned, it is samskrita, or refined, purified, or, as we said, it is the inherent feature of båhaté, or çabda-brahma, which means pure vedic sound. As the property of eternal and pure vedic sound, it is also eternal and pure, and it elaborates the vedic sound in many pure verbal varieties, either vaidika or laukika (as per 11.21.38-40), thus reflecting the variegatedness of the transcendence. Because also the higher realms of the universe are predominantly free of lower modes, Sanskrit is also their language. Of course, as we said, on earth it can become, and does become, degraded with ages, becoming mixed with tinges of lower modes. However, the aforesaid pure scriptural Sanskrit, divya-language, in its various varieties of expression and style, remains the lingua franca of the mainstream of the civilization guided by rishis and rajarshis. It specially remains the preserved language for the yajna-performances, meditations, upasanas etc. (vaidika Sanskrit), as well as for illuminated conferences, discourses and speeches (laukika Sanskrit). Until, as we said, Kali-yuga advents, at which point the civilization gradually becomes cut-off from the connection with educational and managerial personnel of the universe, and the pure language remains only in the scriptures.

Sanskrit, sages, vyakaranas
So the Sanskrit dialects and varieties we find in the scriptures are the eternally existing varieties of the original laws of verbal expression. These different eternal varieties of original language exist constantly along with the vedic scriptures. They are inherent in the båhaté, in the ocean of vedic sound. From time to time, however, when the need manifests, they become also codified, in the form of different Sanskrit grammars (vyakaranas), by qualified vedic sages. Presently, of the grammars by such sages we have only the Panini’s vyakarana in full, and some rare pieces of others. It is remarkable that Panini doesn’t take credit to himself for the grammar he presented – he acknowledges it to be a gift by Lord Siva, which means it exists prior to Panini. Anyway, today only this one is available in full, but previously there existed a good number of them. At least, Panini mentions ten other vyakarana-authors previous to him. And Panini is also an ancient sage of vedic times, at least according to the Puranas, which place him as a contemporary of such persons as Bhrigu, Kasyapa, Durvasa, Gautama, Vasistha, Bharadvaja and so on. (This is found in the Brahma-vaivarta Purana, Prakriti 4.57,58 and Ganapati 23.11-15; i found this info in the book “The True History and the Religion of india” by HH Swami Prakasanand Sarasvati , p 549-550.) According to this account, he is not a recent person that lived and composed his grammar around 400 BC, as the current academic view has it.(?)

So the different scriptures may conform to different systems of grammar, which may be somewhat different than those of Panini. And, even with the same grammar, they can convey their respective messages in different styles of language, according to the different moods, needs and requirements. Since at the time when Vyasa and his great disciples and grand-disciples etc. were editing the Vedas, Puranas, etc., these different grammars and vocabularies were known, and also since those great sages headed with Vyasa were expert connoisseurs of those different linguistic styles, therefore so many differences within scriptures and their modes of verbal expression. (As we know, those sages were kavis, geniuses, not just learned memorizers of books’ contents.)

2.1.4 Conclusion:
So, differences there should be. Many of them

In that light, is it right, proper and arguable to conclude like this? (and write it as a part of a book dealing with Vedic culture):

1. Generally speaking (?)
Generally speaking, the major differences there are between srutis and smritis. Then, differences there are between the srutis and srutis, and also between smritis and smritis. Then, there are also differences, although somewhat minor, within the same kind of srutis (like between the Rigvedic samhitas and Samavedic samhitas) and between the same kind of smritis (like between Puranas and Puranas, like Bhagavata and Visnu Purana).

Those linguistic diversities in the scriptures are the natural feature of the Vedic sound, and are due to many reasons. They may be due to the scriptures’ inherent diversities in the characters and moods, in their topics, in their purposes and intentions, in their functions and intended roles, in their aims and scopes, and also due to the different mentalities and conditions of those for whom they are meant. The differences may appear within one very same scripture also, of course. So, it is not unnatural that the ritual language, language of sound-formulas intended for exact technical psychophysical energy-effects, has one set of rules, while the language for common communication has another. The former is Vaidika Sanskrit, the latter is Laukika-Sanskrit. Further, isn’t it natural that a liturgical recital (comparable to vedic samhitas) and deeply technical philosophical tractate (comparable to the Upanisads) have different linguistic style of expression and different vocabulary? And that a summary compendium of philosophical hints, intended for easier memorizing of a series of very intricate and wide concepts (comparable to philosophical sutras), be of a still significantly different linguistic features? And that the epics (like Puranas and itihasas), meant for a wider public, be still significantly different? And that between those epics themselves, or even within the one very same work, there be notable differences, depending on the atmosphere, temper, mood and mentality etc. that permeate its particular content, and on the state of consciousness the work aims to produce in a reader? Why should we conclude, on the basis of such differences, that the particular works, or their particular parts, were composed in significantly different ages, or even by different persons, necessarily? No – it shouldn’t be necessary, that the rishis who “composed” vedic samhitas in vedic Sanskrit, were ignorant of classical Sanskrit spoken by the Puranas.

2. For the srutis themselves(?)
For example of how we should expect differences between srutis themselves , we could take the four Vedic samhitas. Thus, Rig Veda samhita and Sama Veda samhita contain many mantras in common. Those mantras are equal, saying the same things in the same words, but are stylized differently. The cause for this is the different usage of those same mantras found in the different Vedas. All the mantras of the four Vedas are meant to be used in yajnas. Each Veda’s mantras are used by different priest in the yajna, and serve different purpose in yajna. In the yajna-performance there were four principal priests. Each of them had his specific functional domain, different than the other three. So, each of them recited specific kind of mantras, suitable for his particular function. Each of the four Vedic samhitas is the repository of one of the four kinds of mantras. One priest recited mantras meant for eulogizing, glorification, offering respectful homages (they are among Rig-mantras). Those mantras are intended for invoking the special guests (demigods and God) to the yajna and offering them respectful festive hails. Meanwhile, the other priest recited mantras that had musical function (they are arranged as extremely complex rythmo-musical patterns, humanly non recognizable as such)(Sama-mantras). Those were intended as a melodious songs for the pleasure of the aforesaid guests. Other samhitas, of other two Vedas, had still another functions. That those different mantras have mutually different linguistic features, it is quite expectable and befitting. It should be so. If, on account of that, we see it necessary to conclude that one of those series of texts came in existence centuries after another of the series, isn’t it just our projection of our evolutionistic pre-assumptions, deeply rooted in us, into the unknown – the vedic texts, whose nature is, we’re bound to admit, ultimately out of our purview?

3. For the smritis themselves(?)
(i found this point in a book “The True history and the Religion of India”(page 236) written by, as for my impression, a respectably dedicated vaisnava, of the name Swami Prakashanand Sarasvati. His exact words are a little bit adapted by me):

Regarding the differences between smritis and smritis, let’s take example of the Puranas. The language of the Bhagavatam is very scholarly, poetic and rich, as it explains the richest philosophy of God’s love, God’s realization along with its other affiliated knowledges. …. The language of the other 17 Puranas is less rich, and the language of the Upanisads sometimes leans towards the Vedic samhita side.
…All the scriptures are Divine powers with their own speciality. We can clearly observe the peculiar character of the Vedas in the tenth canto, chapter 87, of the Bhagavatam, where the Vedas themselves are offering their homage to God. The whole chapter is grammatically perfect, but it is a kind of a twisted and not very charming style of language. This is the style and the character of the Vedas (samhita parts). All the chapters of Bhagavatam, before and after this particular chapter, have elegant literary presentation, but this particular chapter, which is the style of the language of the Vedas, stands out with its own peculiarity.

I know that all this may sound pretty logical and convincing to an open-minded person as a devotee naturally is. However, please, if there is any valid objection, whether scriptural, logical or scientific, to anything above, kindly present it. If you have any idea of an answer to it, please present that also. And if there is any valid confirmation you know for anything of the above, please also do present it. That’s my humble request (and ambitious one, i admit).


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The Early Days

During the early days of the Hare Krishna movement, spiritual life was perceived as meaning to live in the temple as a full-time devotee. The word “devotee” referred to someone who was living in a temple and engaged in temple activities full time. Those who lived outside were referred to as “karmis”. That early phase of ISKCON was probably unavoidable. Srila Prabhupada had just started the movement in the West where practically no one had any idea about Krishna Consciousness or devotional service. Therefore, such commitment and involvement was essential.

Changing Times

With the passing of time, the outlook changed – the attitude of the movement broadened and those who were unable to become fully involved for various reasons were also included. This movement is meant to spread all over the world, therefore just a handful of devotees living in the temple could not possibly be the extent of the worldwide movement. As a matter of fact, over time, it became obvious that the vast majority of the devotees would be living outside the temple and that we would have to structure our organisation accordingly in order to grow in an appropriate way.

This development took place naturally as many brahmacharis changed to grihastha ashram. At first families lived within the temple, but as families and children grew, more and more grihasthas had to move out to make arrangements according to their needs. Gradually other people living outside in their households also started to join and their number increased.


Today, the devotees living outside of the temple far outnumber the full-time devotees within the temple. Because of this development, the Krishna consciousness movement has grown with a tremendous speed. Today in ISKCON we see that many householders, though living outside the temple, are maintaining strict spiritual standards, chanting 16 rounds every day, following the four regulative principles, and taking initiation. In this way, they are strengthening the foundation of our movement. They may not be able to participate in temple activities on a daily basis, but they come to the temple on the weekends and render various services regularly.

It is not easy to maintain a household nowadays. To earn the money to maintain one’s family practically compels grihasthas to work for 40 to 60 hours per week. Unless and until one earns a certain amount, he is not going to be able to maintain his family and oftentimes both husband and wife have to work in order to make ends meet. It is admirable that in spite of such busy lives, grihasthas are still chanting 16 rounds, maintaining a nice standard of worship at home, reading Srila Prabhupada’s books and training their children to become Krishna conscious. Through their exemplary commitments, they are, in one sense, the pioneers that are paving the way for the ideal Krishna conscious householder community in our society.


Looking Ahead

The beginning stage of any development naturally faces various difficulties, because proper arrangements are not there to facilitate the participants. Srila Prabhupada had wanted committed householders to lead a life of simple living and high thinking through the development of farm communities. However, due to the complex economic structure of the world today, it is very difficult to become fully self-sufficient in a farm community. Many families tried to move to the country with good intentions of maintaining themselves through cow protection and farming, but most were not able to maintain such a life and eventually had to leave to find a better financial situation. Through the trials and errors of those pioneers, our movement is learning and has real hope for realizing Srila Prabhupada’s vision. Hopefully we will come to the perfect situation where householders can live life within our community without having to depend on outside sources of income. Many spiritual organisations have succeeded in that endeavor, most notably the Mormons. However, it is important to remember that it took the Mormons hundreds of years to come to the situation they are in today. So eventually with time, ISKCON will also have an ideal situation for householders where children will be educated within our own educational systems and later find employment within our institutions, thus being securely situated both spiritually and materially.

Congregational Preaching

In the meantime, before we can have a perfect situation for householders, it is the duty of the monastic order to give them full encouragement. Even though grihasthas may not be engaged in daily services in the temple, they are very deserving of our respect as a very valuable part of our community. We have to utilize their talents and abilities for the propagation of Krishna consciousness. They should be motivated and trained to become active preachers and spiritual leaders. In this respect, we can closely follow the lives of various exalted householder devotees of the past. Of course, during Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s time, the social situation was not as complex as it has become today. In India at that time, life was very simple, food and other necessities were in abundance and the attitude of the people was also very generous. That is the advantage of living close to nature. However, today’s world has drifted far away from that lifestyle and as a result household life has become so complex. Therefore we must recognize that in spite of such pressure and responsibility, the individuals who are maintaining their Krishna consciousness in their household situation are indeed great devotees and deserve our heartfelt appreciation. For their sake, our movement has to sincerely consider how to create appropriate situations to properly utilize their valuable time.

One of the best ways to motivate householders is by genuinely recognizing their contribution to ISKCON. It is our duty as ISKCON leaders to guide those who are earnestly involved in accepting and propagating Krishna consciousness and engage them according to their talents and the needs of the movement. Let us give congregational preaching the importance that it deserves. Let us recognize that this is the most powerful tool for the propagation of Krishna consciousness all over the world and let us not hesitate to give it all the support it needs to become a very solid foundation for our movement.

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In and around Quanzhou, a bustling industrial city, there are shrines that historians believe may have been part of a network of more than a dozen Hindu temples and shrines


A panel of inscriptions of the God Narasimha adorns the entrance to the main shrine of the temple, believed to have been installed by Tamil traders who lived in Quanzhou in the 13th century. Photo: Ananth Krishnan

For the residents of Chedian, a few thousand-year-old village of muddy by-lanes and old stone courtyard houses, she is just another form of Guanyin, the female Bodhisattva who is venerated in many parts of China.

But the goddess that the residents of this village pray to every morning, as they light incense sticks and chant prayers, is quite unlike any deity one might find elsewhere in China. Sitting cross-legged, the four-armed goddess smiles benignly, flanked by two attendants, with an apparently vanquished demon lying at her feet.

Local scholars are still unsure about her identity, but what they do know is that this shrine’s unique roots lie not in China, but in far away south India. The deity, they say, was either brought to Quanzhou — a thriving port city that was at the centre of the region’s maritime commerce a few centuries ago — by Tamil traders who worked here some 800 years ago, or perhaps more likely, crafted by local sculptors at their behest.

“This is possibly the only temple in China where we are still praying to a Hindu God,” says Li San Long, a Chedian resident, with a smile.

“Even though most of the villagers still think she is Guanyin!” Mr. Li said the village temple collapsed some 500 years ago, but villagers dug through the rubble, saved the deity and rebuilt the temple, believing that the goddess brought them good fortune — a belief that some, at least, still adhere to.

The Chedian shrine is just one of what historians believe may have been a network of more than a dozen Hindu temples or shrines, including two grand big temples, built in Quanzhou and surrounding villages by a community of Tamil traders who lived here during the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1279-1368) dynasties.

At the time, this port city was among the busiest in the world and was a thriving centre of regional maritime commerce.

The history of Quanzhou’s temples and Tamil links was largely forgotten until the 1930s, when dozens of stones showing perfectly rendered images of the god Narasimha — the man-lion avatar of Vishnu — were unearthed by a Quanzhou archaeologist called Wu Wenliang. Elephant statues and images narrating mythological stories related to Vishnu and Shiva were also found, bearing a style and pattern that was almost identical to what was evident in the temples of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh from a similar period.

Wu’s discoveries received little attention at the time as his country was slowly emerging from the turmoil of the Japanese occupation, the Second World War and the civil war. It took more than a decade after the Communists came to power in 1949 for the stones and statues to even be placed in a museum, known today as the Quanzhou Maritime Museum.

“It is difficult to say how many temples there were, and how many were destroyed or fell to ruin,” the museum’s vice curator Wang Liming told The Hindu. “But we have found them spread across so many different sites that we are very possibly talking about many temples that were built across Quanzhou.”

Today, most of the sculptures and statues are on display in the museum, which also showcases a map that leaves little doubt about the remarkable spread of the discoveries. The sites stretch across more than a dozen locations located all over the city and in the surrounding county. The most recent discoveries were made in the 1980s, and it is possible, says Ms. Wang, that there are old sites yet to be discovered.

The Maritime Museum has now opened a special exhibit showcasing Quanzhou’s south Indian links. Ms. Wang says there is a renewed interest — and financial backing — from the local government to do more to showcase what she describes as the city’s “1000-year-old history with south India,” which has been largely forgotten, not only in China but also in India.

“There is still a lot we don’t know about this period,” she says, “so if we can get any help from Indian scholars, we would really welcome it as this is something we need to study together. Most of the stones come from the 13th century Yuan Dynasty, which developed close trade links with the kingdoms of southern India. We believe that the designs were brought by the traders, but the work was probably done by Chinese workers.”

Ms. Wang says the earliest record of an Indian residing in Quanzhou dates back to the 6th century. An inscription found on the Yanfu temple from the Song Dynasty describes how the monk Gunaratna, known in China as Liang Putong, translated sutras from Sanskrit. Trade particularly flourished in the 13th century Yuan Dynasty. In 1271, a visiting Italian merchant recorded that the Indian traders “were recognised easily.”

“These rich Indian men and women mainly live on vegetables, milk and rice,” he wrote, unlike the Chinese “who eat meat and fish.” The most striking legacy of this period of history is still on public display in a hidden corner of the 7th century Kaiyuan Buddhist Temple, which is today Quanzhou’s biggest temple and is located in the centre of the old town. A popular attraction for Chinese Buddhists, the temple receives a few thousand visitors every day. In a corner behind the temple, there are at least half a dozen pillars displaying an extraordinary variety of inscriptions from Hindu mythology. A panel of inscriptions depicting the god Narasimha also adorns the steps leading up to the main shrine, which houses a Buddha statue. Huang Yishan, a temple caretaker whose family has, for generations, owned the land on which the temple was built, says the inscriptions are perhaps the most unique part of the temple, although he laments that most of his compatriots are unaware of this chapter of history. On a recent afternoon, as a stream of visitors walked up the steps to offer incense sticks as they prayed to Buddha, none spared a glance at the panel of inscriptions. Other indicators from Quanzhou’s rich but forgotten past lie scattered through what is now a modern and bustling industrial city, albeit a town that today lies in the shadow of the provincial capital Xiamen and the more prosperous port city of Guangzhou to the far south.

A few kilometres from the Kaiyuan temple stands a striking several metre-high Shiva lingam in the centre of the popular Bamboo Stone Park. To the city’s residents, however, the lingam is merely known as a rather unusually shaped “bamboo stone,” another symbol of history that still stays hidden in plain sight.


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Update: Mother Pattarajni Devi Dasi left her body. Prabhupada took our beloved Pattarajni back to Krsna….10:15 PM. She left with Prabhupada and her family chanting Holy Names, her Lord Chaitanya Deity watching her, Tulasi neckbeads, tilok, her head surrounded with pictures of Prabhupada, Radha, Radha & Krsna,Krsna Balarama, Gaura Nitai & Lord Nrsimha. Her hand was in her beadbag,…on her wrist Radharani bracelet, on her heart was Nrsimha Kavachs, and Radha Kunda japa mala beads. She wore 2 beautiful Deity garlands from temple and Radharani’s shawl. She had Ganga water and Radha Kunda water on her head, dust from Vrndavan and forests of Vrndavan, Govardana Hill dust, Prabhupada samadhi dust. As she was departing Kalindi her daughter put Ganga water in her mouth, both her sons Dhruva & Raman put Tulasi Manjari in her mouth, Vamanadeva put Vrndavan dust on her head. Very, very, very Auspicious.

URGENT PRAYERS REQUESTED: for HG Pattarajni Devi Dasi, a dear disciple of Srila Prabhupada, who is currently in critical condition after suffering a fall last night due to a serious brain aneurysm.
Her daughter Kalindi: Dear Devotees and Friends, please join us remotely from your location this evening in Kirtan for my mother Pattarajni. You can do so by chanting in front of the deities, the more devotees chanting together the better. We (her close family and friends) will all be together at her side starting from around 6pm, chanting the holy names. I know that she would be grateful for any other devotees doing the same at that time, focusing on Krishna and her journey back to Godhead. As you all know, this is her greatest goal. Please help her achieve this by devoting your evening to her and Krishna. Many thanks, Love Kalindi


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GBC College Trains Future Zonal Supervisors

By Madhava Smullen

Twenty-five devotees from all over the US and Canada began a Zonal Supervisor Training program, run by the GBC College for Leadership Development, to learn how to become top leaders in ISKCON recently.

Since 2015, the GBC College has trained five groups of leaders in India, one in Russia, one in Latin America, and one in Central Asia – and it is now launching in North America for the first time.

Candidates were hand-picked by their respective GBCs and vetted by the GBC College Admissions Committee. They are reportedly the most diverse group that the College has trained thus far—in terms of age, education, experience, generation, ethnicity and gender.


The GBC’s aim is to train all levels of leaders in ISKCON for succession; the current program is training candidates to become zonal supervisors. “The GBC has divided the world into 168 zones, and each GBC oversees about five zones,” explains College President Rupanuga Das. “One zonal supervisor will be assigned to each zone, and will assist the local GBC in managing it.”

The seventeen-month Zonal Supervisor Training program began with its first two-week residential in New Vrindaban, West Virginia from October 24th to November 5th. The New Vrindaban team, lead by Jaya Rama Das and Mahasundar Das, made a generous offer to host the residential session for free, at no cost to the students or faculty. 


The qualified Vaishnava teachers leading the program included three of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples- HH Bhakti Charu Swami, Gopal Bhatta Das, and Malati Devi Dasi; five with a Ph.D.—Kaunteya Das, Sri Prahlada Das, Bala Govinda Das, Radhika Raman Das and Rupanuga Das; two renowned experts - Vraj Vihari Das and Radheshyam Das; and a guest speaker - Sri Radhe Govinda Devi Dasi.

Each day of the program began at 5:00am with mangala arati, japa, and Guru Puja. At Srimad-Bhagavatam class, teachers spoke from the fourth canto, chapter sixteen, discussing the leadership style of ancient king Maharaja Prithu. Students were also encouraged to give class, including Prabhupada Priya Dasi, who spoke on Govardhan Puja day, and whose brilliant lecture outlined from Indra’s behavior how not to lead. Other student speakers included Yugal Kishore Das, Mangala-Arati Dasi, Dronacharya Das, Srutisagara Das and Vrinda Sundari Dasi.

Lessons then ran from 10am to 5.15pm daily, with breaks. Among them were “Srila Prabhupada: The Founder Acharya,” and” How to be Srila Prabhupadanugas,” by Bhakti Charu Swami.


“Using anecdotes from his personal experiences with Srila Prabhupada, Maharaja inspired our leaders in training to imbibe Prabhupada’s leadership style,” Rupanuga says. “He also went over principles that Prabhupada emphasized, such as purity is the force, unity in diversity, and cooperating with one another.”

Meanwhile Gopal Bhatta Das, co-chair of the GBC’s Organizational Development Committee, discussed ways in which ISKCON can market itself, lead change, and sustain the kind of growth needed to expand from the current 800 centers around the world, to every town and village.

“There is lots of potential for growth for ISKCON, but we are not making the moves that we should be making if we want to become a mainstream religion,” says Rupanuga.


Kaunteya Das, a member of the GBC Strategic Planning Team, spent a full day looking in-depth at strategic planning with students. Using this process, the GBC analyzes ISKCON’s strengths, limitations and opportunities to grow; the current audience they are serving; potential audiences they would like to serve; and those things that are keeping potential audiences from flocking to ISKCON temples.

With this assessment, they then create a vision statement of where they want to be in the next five to ten years; chalk out a plan to get there; and identify specific goals in various areas such as devotee care, outreach, etc, marking out who will do them and when.

Other classes in the residential program included Leadership Lessons from Srimad-Bhagavatam; Learning to See Good in Others; Overcoming Faultfinding Tendencies; Servant Leadership; Virtue, Authenticity, and Mental Discipline; Sadhana for Leaders; Learning about Personality Types; Inspiring Trust; Team Building; Collaboration; and Accountability.


There was also Upholding ISKCON Standards with Malati Devi; Leadership and Management in Gaudiya Vaisnava History with Radhika Ramana (Dr. Ravi Gupta); and conflict resolution and mediation with Vraj Vihari Das.

“Along with some lectures, the classes included breakout sessions where leaders were presented with real life situations in ISKCON and had to use the skills they’d learned,” Rupanuga says.

The residential also included a one day break during which students visited historic sites of Srila Prabhupada’s pastimes in New Vrindaban; as well as time for them to get to know each other and share local initiatives they were working on.


The New Vrindaban residential program was just the beginning of the seventeen-month Zonal Supervisors Training Program. Next, leaders will take distance learning online courses for nearly a year from November 12th 2019 to October 2020. 

These will include Principles of Temple Administration, Fundraising, Book Distribution, Basic Finance and Accounting, Community Development, Developing Bhakti Habitats in East and West, Living ISKCON Law, Vaisnava Sadachar, Why Religious Movements Succeed or Fail, Managing Farm Communities, and Child Protection in ISKCON.

Parallel to the online learning, leaders will plan Action Learning Projects, or ALPs – real life projects they’ll work on with a local team of five or six other devotees in their zone. Part of this will involve teaching principles of Strategic Planning to others. 


“The purpose of teaching to learn is that when we teach, the retention rate is ninety percent, compared to just five percent rention after hearing a lecture,” says Rupanuga.

Students will then take a second residential, once again at New Vrindaban, in October 2020, followed by more online courses until January 15th 2021. Parallel to that, they will continue their action learning project to execution.

Finally, those who successfully complete the program will graduate in front of the entire GBC body at the GBC’s Annual General Meetings in Mayapur in February 2021, where they will be presented with a diploma.

As with any college, not all who receive the diploma will necessarily get the job, but they will be qualified for the position and can be nominated by a GBC to serve as a zonal supervisor.

According to Rupanuga Das, this kind of training was desired by Srila Prabhupada. In a January 1973 letter to Satsvarupa Maharaja and Hridayananda Maharaja, he wrote, ‘There is need for intelligent young men, to train them up as future leaders and preachers to go all over the world for spreading the message of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”

“This was Prabhupada’s plan,” Rupanuga says. “He wanted all GBCs to be trained up. He would have GBCs come and shadow him to learn how he was managing affairs. So this is the mandate of our Founder-Acharya. We are simply following in his footsteps.”


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It was a long day of inspirational presentations, and the first item on the agenda was a walk through a portion of the valley. I was not alone. Five other ISKCON leaders, all from the city, joined me in the tranquil experience.

Bears are now hibernating in their dens. They were very active during the late summer. Of course, this is their territory. Ravens are also not around. Rattlesnakes they are asleep at this time of year. So, there is ultimate quiet.

The walk culminated in our arrival at the goshala, the place for cows. It became a petting and feeding session for most of us, followed by sadhana, prayer, and meditations at the Bhaktivedanta Academy. That was sweet!

Breakfast followed. In our Annual General Meeting, there was participation by around forty representatives from across Canada. The presentation by Partha and Uttama, a resilient couple and members of the Grhasta Vision Team, was a highlight for me. The group is all about marriage education and counselling. Marriages, good ones, are the foundation of a good society. Since we live in a time that proves to be not-so-friendly to family values, it becomes an issue.

Overall, the idea of enhancing marriage and family living was of great interest to all. It is so pertinent, relevant.

I saw much talent and experience in the room, and was proud to have these devoted people to work with.
My commitment is not just to Canada, the United States, or other countries that I visit. Rather, it is for all people who can see the benefit of assimilating an endeavour toward higher consciousness.
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On the 1st of November, 2019, HH Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaja along with several senior Prabhupada disciples and many other ISKCON Devotees, formally inaugurated the ISKCON temple at Chippiwada for the benefit of general public. Located near the Juma Masjid, Asia’s largest active mosque, at Old Delhi, a fabulous festival of unprecedented proportions was celebrated with the inauguration of Srila Prabhupada’s Museum and the installation of Gaura Nitai deities.

Like Sudharma the Lord’s assembly hall which could expand immeasurably as per the size of the assembly, it appeared as if miraculously, the seemingly narrow walls of ISKCON Chippiwada, had expanded to accommodate the nearly 30 Srila Prabhupada disciples and hundreds of other devotees and faithful who attended the Temple inauguration ceremony at ISKCON Chippiwada On 1st November 2019 !


By the sincere efforts of HG Raghava Pandit Prabhu and HG Radha Kinkar Prabhu, the property was duly registered in the name of ISKCON in 2012, a good 35 years after Srila Prabhupada’s departure, under the leadership of HH Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaja! By the generous financial contribution and managerial support Mr. Vinod Jain and the sincere efforts of HG Neelakantha Prabhu the Center Manager, the entire temple has been renovated, and transformed into a sparkling, opulent piece of spiritual architecture.

The deity installation ceremony of Sri Sri Gaur Nitai- Netronmilanam, Adhivasa, Shilpi Dosha Snanam and Yajna were conducted by HG Sevatulya Prabhu the Deity Worship Minister of ISKCON India and his capable team.

HH Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaja, HH Lokanath Swami Maharaja, HH Bhanu Swami Maharaja, HH Siddhartha Swami Maharaja, HG Bhavananda Prabhu, HG Devakinanadana Prabhu , HG Rasarani Mataji, HG Jivanath Prabhu, HG Sabhapati Prabhu, HG Hrimati Mata Ji, HG Riddha Prabhu ,HG Shyamasundari Mataji , HG Pankajanghri Prabhu, HG Basu Ghosh Prabhu , HG Vaiyasaki Prabhu ,HG Pancharatna Prabhu , HG Atita Guna Mata Ji ,HG Shatadanya Prabhu, HG Ganga Das Prabhu, HG Raseshwari mataji, HG Kshudi Prabhu, HG Ambika mataji ,HG Moksha Lakshmi Mataji,HG Devadayita mataji, HG Kratu Prabhu and HG Amrita Keli Mataji participated in the Abhisheka of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, along with the nearly 200 years old Radha Vallabha deities.

HG Vaiyasaki Prabhu, HH Pancharatna Pr and HH Bhakti Anugraha Janardana Swami Maharaja enraptured the environment with soul stirring Kirtan as Sri Sri Gaura Nitai were greeted for the first time along with Sri Sri Radha Vallabha.


Srila Prabhupada Museum

Srila Prabhupada’s Museum was inaugurated on the same day and had all his disciples soaking in the atmosphere, reminiscing his glorious pastimes and expressing astonishment at how he had managed with so little facilities to flag off a global movement where each of them had got connected by the Lord’s arrangement. This museum displays his original Harmonium, several original letters related to Chippiwada and otherwise, and a copy of his passport which he had carried when he had left for the United States, by the Jaladuta and many other memorabilia. There is also a magnificent display of Srila Prabhupada’s books in 60 different languages of the world! Adorning the walls further are some truly memorable sketches by his disciple HG Bhakti Siddhanta Prabhu and photographs from his unparalleled life that will be a sure draw for the community of devotees and the general populace. Many of the guests made entries in the Visitors’ book as well.

Here are a few contemplations from Srila Prabhupada’s glorification by his disciples and other senior devotees.


HG Moksha Lakshmi Mataji

“When I was a young girl I actually visited this temple to see the pastimes of Srila Prabhupada, and so I know what it looked like, and I know the wonderful job that has been done now. I was very impressed and so happy, that this piece of ISKCON history is actually now in the care of ISKCON.”

HG Bhavananda Prabhu remarked:

“One of things that attracted me the most when I joined ISKCON was the cover of Srimad Bhagavatam First Canto and it was at this place that Srila Prabhupada had got it printed. Srila Prabhupada had an amazing spiritual vision. He was actually doing this for you and me.”

HG Basu Ghosh Prabhu:

“This wonderful temple is located right next to the Juma Masjid. Srila Prabhupada once remarked that he will personally take on his head, the dust from the feet of the devotees who could preach to the people of a certain community.”

Every one of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and senior devotees like HG Revati Raman Pr- GBC and Temple President of ISKCON Tirupati, HG Braja Hari Pr- ISKCON Bureau EC member and Temple President of ISKCON Mumbai-Juhu and HG Braja Vilas Pr- The Chief Coordinator of the TOVP Fund Raising team glorified Srila Prabhupada, his infinite sacrifices which started from Chippiwada and how he had touched their lives. The surrender and sincere efforts of HH Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaja, the GBC of nearly 17 temples in ISKCON Delhi-NCR as envisioned by Srila Prabhupada was appreciated by all the senior devotees. Maharaja on his own part gave all the credit to Srila Prabhupada and his selfless struggles from Chippiwada. Prabhupada was living here in such a poor, humble place. It wasn’t even clean. Starting from here , Srila Prabhupada built a house the whole world could live in and a global conglomerate of nearly 700 temples, restaurants, schools, farms, hospitals etc.But this is where it all began!

Srila Prabhupada’s Desire to have the Chippiwada temple in ISKCON:

From the intensely busy Chandni Chowk, Bhaktivedanta Swami would take the short walk to Chippiwada, past the Red Fort, keeping the Gaurī-Śaṅkara temple on his left, then proceeding along a side street past the large, imposing Jama Mosque. Near Chippiwada the streets would become narrow.

Even as the volume was being printed, he was still writing the last chapters. When the proofs were ready at O.K. Press, he would pick up the proofs, return to his room at Chippiwada, correct the proofs, and then return them. In the last months of 1962, Bhaktivedanta Swami usually made a daily walk to O.K. Press.

“On October 9, the day Prabhupāda started for Calcutta, he left behind a different kind of letter for Sri Krishna Pandit. Prabhupāda had been negotiating with Sri Krishna Pandit to purchase the Chippiwada temple for ISKCON or at least to rent the single room through a formal contract. Prabhupāda wanted the room as a Delhi headquarters for printing his books.”(Srila Prabhupada Lilamrita, Satsvarupa Das Goswami)

54 years from then, Chippiwada now has a full fledged ISKCON Temple, where ISKCON began in one sense, where it all began!


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Perhaps one of the more endearing images in the Bhagavad-gita is Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, driving the chariot of His friend, the warrior Arjuna. When we accept the notion of God as a person then we can begin to ask, What does he do? How does he interact with us, and especially how does he interact with his pure devotees, such as Arjuna? Krishna chooses to be the chariot driver of Arjuna in the Battle of Kurukshetra where the Bhagavad-gita was spoken.

This role of charioteer gives us much insight into Krishna as a person. He enjoys serving those he loves, loves to sometimes lead from behind, loves to help his devotees succeed, loves to interact and be a part of making the world a better place.

For some, understanding God in such a personal way can be a bit unnerving. He acts too much like us, we might think, too ordinary. While there is a hint of truth and caution in that, we also understand that beyond the awe and reverence we have for the magnificence of the creator and the creation, there is a very sweet and personal relationship. This close and personal relationship with Krishna is the promise of bhakti – the love between God and us, and us and God.

Srila Prabhupada explains it well in his commentary on the Gita: “Although Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, out of His causeless mercy He was engaged in the service of His friend. He never fails in His affection for His devotees, and thus He is addressed herein as infallible. As charioteer, He had to carry out the orders of Arjuna, and since He did not hesitate to do so, He is addressed as infallible. Although He had accepted the position of a charioteer for His devotee, His supreme position was not challenged. In all circumstances, He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hrishikesh, the Lord of the total senses. The relationship between the Lord and His servitor is very sweet and transcendental. The servitor is always ready to render service to the Lord, and, similarly, the Lord is always seeking an opportunity to render some service to the devotee. He takes greater pleasure in His pure devotee’s assuming the advantageous position of ordering Him than He does in being the giver of orders. Since He is master, everyone is under His orders, and no one is above Him to order Him. But when He finds that a pure devotee is ordering Him, He obtains transcendental pleasure, although He is the infallible master in all circumstances.” Bg 1.21-22

Throughout the Gita, Krishna deals with Arjuna with much affection – first as a friend and then as a teacher. Besides that, as chariot driver, Arjuna naturally trusts and depends on Him. A good chariot driver sees things others may not, can prompt the right moves, and be there to encourage and support as the warrior makes difficult fighting decisions.

The Gita lets us observe the relationship between Krishna and Arjuna and hear their conversation. It’s a beautiful thing and at the end when Krishna tells Arjuna ‘deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do’ we feel He is telling us that too. And we feel ready to take on our own life – more informed, more awake, more detached, and filled with more love.


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Glories of Yamuna by Giriraj dasa

Let us hear the glories of Yamuna, how dear she is to the devotees of Krishna and what amazing role she plays in Krishna’s Vraja pastimes. Simply hearing her glories can ignite the spark of love for Krishna in our barren hearts.

Yamuna’s Beauty

The Yamuna river passes through that forest and flows near Nandisvara Hill. It winds through Vraja in a very crooked course, searching for Sri Krsna, the moon of Vraja.

The Yamuna river is like a blue lotus flower garland, a sapphire necklace, or a blue sash worn by the goddess of Vrndavana.

(Sri Vrjaja Riti Cintamani, chapter 2, verse 33 & 40 )

Yamuna’s journey

Passing the seven seas and seven planetary systems, and breaking through the sevenfold covering of the universe, the Yamuna enters the spiritual Goloka planet and wanders here and there to serve Vrndavana by carrying water.

Many greedy men will wait at a rich man’s doorstep, hoping to meet him and benefit hundreds of thousands of times over. In the same way the Yamuna flows in a very winding course, greedy to get some of the wealth of Vrindavan forest.

(Sri Vrjaja Riti Cintamani, chapter 2, verse 41-42 )

Her pastimes with Krishna

The dark nectar current of the Yamuna picks up Lord Krsna and plunges Him and His gopi friends in the dark nectar current of transcendental amorous pastimes.

The dark nectar current of the Yamuna picks up Lord Krsna and plunges Him and His gopi friends in the dark nectar current of transcendental amorous pastimes.

Many charming aquatic creatures, plunged in the nectar of love for Krsna, again and again push their heads above the Yamuna’s waters, hoping for a glimpse of Lord Syama.

On the Yamuna s beautiful shores are jewel staircases, which are like the teeth of the goddess of beauty, and which remind one of Sri Krsna.

When they drink the sound of Krsna’s flute, these two jewel staircases melt with love, and the river flowing between them becomes solid and stunned with ecstasy.

In the moonlight the Yamuna’s beaches appear to be made of camphor-sand. Lord Krsna enjoyed His rasa-lila on these beaches, with each place bearing the name of a particular pastime.

(Sri Vrjaja Riti Cintamani, chapter 2, verse 43-47 )

The benediction

They who offer respectful obeisances to her or bathe in her waters, the Yamuna, which is like a moat of black mascara encircling Vrndavana, transforms into pure devotees carrying Lord Krsna in their hearts.

(Sri Vrjaja Riti Cintamani, chapter 2, verse 39 )

There are many ways we can offer our respectful obeisances to Yamuna, a good way is to pray to her. One prayer I can share is Yamunastakam, written by Srila Rupa Goswami. Coming from the heart of Srila Rupa Goswami we can understand its potency. And he requests her to flood that person with pure devotional service who recites these eight prayers with a cheerful heart.

Sri Sri Yamunastakam

bhratur antakasya pattane ’bhipatti-harini
preksayati-papino ’pi papa-sindhu-tarini
nira-madhuribhir apy asesa-citta-bandhini
mam punatu sarvadaravinda-bandhu-nandini

“May Yamunadevi, the daughter of Suryadeva, always purify me. She saves all, who touch her, from going to the realm of her brother Yamaraja, and enables even greatly wicked persons, who see her, to cross the ocean of their sinful deeds. Her attractive water charms the hearts of everyone.”

mam punatu sarvadaravinda-bandhu-nandini

“Yamunadevi adorns Indra’s great Khandava forest with her enchanting current, and upon her blooming lotus flowers, various birds are always dancing. Simply desiring to bath in her pleasant, crystalline waters frees one from even the greatest of sins. May Yamunadevi, the daughter of Suryadeva, always purify me.”

mam punatu sarvadaravinda-bandhu-nandini

“Sprinkling a single drop of her water upon oneself destroys the reaction of most heinous crimes. She increases the flow of confidential devotional service (raganuga-bhakti) for Nandanandana within one’s heart and blesses everyone who simply desires to reside on her banks. May Yamunadevi, the daughter of Suryadeva, always purify me.”

kanti-kandalibhir indranila-vrinda-nindini
mam punatu sarvadaravinda-bandhu-nandini

“Yamunadevi is so powerful, that although she flows through the seven oceans which surround the earth’s seven islands, she never merges with them. Being witness to many of Sri Mukunda’s wonderful pastimes, she manifests these pastimes in the hearts of those who take shelter of her. Her dark, shimmering beauty defeats the splendour of precious blue sapphires. May Yamunadevi, the daughter of Suryadeva, always purify me.”

mathurena mandalena carunabhimandita
prema-naddha-vaisnavadhva-vardhanaya pandita
mam punatu sarvadaravinda-bandhu-nandini

“Ornamented with the supremely enchanting land of Mathura-mandala, Yamunadevi skillfully inspires love of Godhead (prema) in the hearts of the Vaisnavas who bath in her. With playful waves, which are like her moving arms, she worships Padmanabha Sri Krishna’s lotus feet. May Yamunadevi, the daughter of Suryadeva, always purify me.”

mam punatu sarvadaravinda-bandhu-nandini

“Yamunadevi’s charming banks are further beautified by the fragrance from the flowers of kadamba trees and by loving cows. She is especially delighted when Nandalala’s devotees assemble on her banks. May Yamunadevi, the daughter of Suryadeva, always purify me.”

mam punatu sarvadaravinda-bandhu-nandini

“Filled with the warbling of thousands of joyful swans, Yamunadevi is worshipable to demigods, Siddhas, Kinnaras and humans whose hearts are dedicated to the service of Sri Hari. Anyone who is touched by her gentle breezes is freed from the cycle of birth and death. May Yamunadevi, the daughter of Suryadeva, always purify me.”

kirtitapi durmadoru-papa-marma-tapini
mam punatu sarvadaravinda-bandhu-nandini

“Yamunadevi flows through the three worlds known as Bhuh, Bhuvah and Svah and distributes her loving emotions. Singing her glories burns even the greatest sins to ashes. She has become fragrant by the scented ointments from the body of King Nanda’s son Sri Krishna, who enjoys to play in her waters. May Yamunadevi, the daughter of Suryadeva, always purify me.”

tusta-buddhir astakena nirmalormi-cestitam
tvam anena bhanu-putri sarva-deva-vestitam
yah staviti vardhayasva sarva-papa-mocane
bhakti-puram asya devi pundarika-locane

“O Suryaputri! Devi! O Yamuna, whose waves are very purifying and who is surrounded by all the demigods! For those who recite with cheerful heart this prayers, please increase their bhakti for lotus-eyed Sri Krishna, who liberates all persons from their sins.”

( Srila Rupa Goswami, Stava-mala)


Yamunastakam Sung by HG Jai Sachinanadana Prabhu  


All glories to Yamuna devi.

All glories to Sri Vrindavan dhama

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.


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